Ohio man fulfills promise, brings brother home in antique hearse

Jim Hawk’s sons, grandsons and nephews carry him from the antique hearse into the Hawk family home, in East Rochester, Ohio, for a wake, April 16. Jim Hawk was transported to the home in the antique hearse by his brother, Ted. (Submitted photo)

EAST ROCHESTER, Ohio — Ted Hawk had been preparing for his brother’s death for several years. His older brother, Jim, had two requests. 

“He said, ‘First thing is I want to spend a night in the house and have calling hours there,’” Ted said. 

Should be easy enough. The family’s towering Victorian home that Ted bought after his mother died has a parlor and sits below the family cemetery — the Hawk & Sanor Cemetery. Jim would be buried in a plot near his parents and five siblings who died before him.

“Then, he said ‘the second thing is, when I’m in the casket, I want to ride in an old car.’”

That part was a bit trickier. Ted said Ohio has a law that prohibits corpses from being transported in open vehicles. So, using a truck was not an option.

“I said, “OK I’ll just build you a hearse, and I’ll haul you in that,’” Ted recollected. “And he said, ‘That’d be great.’”

Ted built a hearse from a 1925 Ford Model TT, the commercial 1-ton version of the Model T, a story first covered by Farm and Dairy, in October 2019. Then he waited. A couple of years went by. The night of April 11, he got the call that his brother had passed. It was go time.

Knowing Jim

Jim Hawk was born May 1, 1946, as Neal Arthur Hawk. He was the seventh of Elwin and Hazel Hawk’s 12 children. Elwin had a habit of giving his children nicknames that were completely unrelated to their given names, which is how he ended up being called Jim.

He grew up at the family farm in East Rochester, Ohio, on Hawk Road. As the family grew, his parents bought a house nearby, the Victorian that Ted now owns on Summers Road.

Jim Hawk and his wife, Rosemary. (submitted photo)

Jim learned how to work on machinery of all kinds as he worked for his father in Hawk Laboratories, a machine shop in East Rochester. He retired from Anchor Glass and Container, in Zanesville, Ohio, after 30 years. In his retirement, he farmed beef cattle and worked as a machinery maintenance consultant.

“He was one of the smartest men I’ve ever known,” said his oldest son, Mike Hawk. “There are very few things I ever saw him tear apart and put back together, and it not actually work.”

“It might not have all the bolts,” said Jim’s youngest son, Bob Hawk, ribbing his late father.

Jim had a couple of inventions, one of which was an automatic welder to weld cast iron. His father wired it with all the same color of wire so nobody could work on it except him, Mike said.

“You know what the truth is, why he only wired it with one color? Because he only had to buy one roll of wire,” Ted said. “My brother Jim was pretty tight with a buck. There’s frugal. Then there’s tight. Then there’s Jim.”

Jim moved to Dresden, Ohio, where he raised his four children, Kim, Mike, Jeffrey and Bob. He supported them through their school and sports endeavors, going to all of Bob’s baseball games and Mike’s football games. They spent time in the garage together, Jim passing on his mechanical and technical knowledge, Bob said.

Their father could be tough to get along with sometimes. He was old fashioned and a bit stubborn, but he was also mischievous and had a sense of humor.

“He could give you hell nine different ways and, by the end of the conversation, you’d be thanking him for it,” Mike said.

Jim died at home on his farm after a years-long struggle with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and congestive heart failure.

The ride

When Ted got the call Monday night, they began making plans for what Ted affectionately called “Jim and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.”

The first leg was to haul the hearse down to Dresden, Ohio on Thursday night, April 14, for calling hours at a funeral home. The second leg was the next morning, April 15, around 9 a.m. when they loaded Jim’s casket into the hearse and started the drive north.

Plans changed once they got underway. Traffic was heavier than expected because it was Good Friday. After about 30 miles, they decided it wasn’t safe to be on the busy road in the antique cars for the 90-mile journey back to East Rochester. They loaded up the cars and hauled them to just outside of Minerva and drove the 10 or so miles back home.

antique cars sit outside a victorian home. A home built hearse sits in front of the home with a casket in the back.
The Ford Model TT hearse Ted Hawk built to transport his deceased brother to the family cemetery in East Rochester, Ohio from Dresden, Ohio sits outside the Hawk family home, April 16. The family’s other antique cars sit lined up in the driveway. (Submitted photo)

Back together

Family began gathering throughout the day Friday. Ted, Bob, Bob’s son, Brandon, and Ted and Jim’s nephew, Chuck, all showed up wearing denim Liberty overalls. It wasn’t planned. It’s just what they like to wear. They said Jim would have been wearing them too had he had a choice about it.

Antique vehicles gathered too. They’re as much a part of the family as anything else. Elwin Hawk gave three of his sons antique cars. Jim got a 1926 Chevy Superior. Chuck got a 1924 Ford Model T. Tom got a 1927 Ford Model T. The three cars were parked out front of the house Friday afternoon, the first time the vehicles had been in the same place together in at least 50 years.

When they had enough manpower, Jim’s sons and nephews carried him into the family home for one last overnight stay. Calling hours were held that evening, followed by an Irish wake.

The final leg of the adventure was the service and burial on Saturday morning, April 16. The rain forced them inside for the service, but it stopped long enough to take Jim up to the cemetery and bury him.

Mike said his dad would have appreciated the big fuss being made of him, from the hearse being built to the journey to get him back home.

“He likes it when he’s the center of attention,” Mike said. “He can’t do anything easy.”

The dark humor is an integral part of being a Hawk. Death is just another part of life when you run a family cemetery. Ted buried his parents and now six of his siblings there.

“You have to have a sense of humor to be in this family,” Mike said.

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(Reporter Rachel Wagoner can be contacted at 800-837-3419 or rachel@farmanddairy.com.)


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Rachel is a reporter with Farm and Dairy and a graduate of Clarion University of Pennsylvania. She married a fourth-generation farmer and settled down in her hometown in Beaver County, where she co-manages the family farm raising beef cattle and sheep with her husband and in-laws. Before coming to Farm and Dairy, she worked at several daily and weekly newspapers throughout Western Pennsylvania covering everything from education and community news to police and courts. She can be reached at rachel@farmanddairy.com or 724-201-1544.



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