Jamie Hawkins

Hawkins

Jamie Hawkins, a meteorologist and father of three who channeled his obsession with all things weather-related into a decades-long career in public service and science advocacy, died Sunday, May 8, at his home in Alexandria, Va. He was 66.

The cause was metastatic cancer from uveal melanoma. He spent his final weeks surrounded by family and friends, laughing, reminiscing, and listening to the sounds of his grandchildren playing nearby. “It’s a joyful noise,” Hawkins said.

His wife and partner of 52 years, Nancy Meyer Hawkins, took care of him from his diagnosis in winter 2020 until his death. Nancy was the center of his world, and the home they built together in the Washington suburbs was his paradise. Though his work in meteorology and weather science took him all over the globe — to Tokyo, to Geneva, across the continental United States —
he’d never hesitate to cut a trip short if it meant getting back to his family a day early.

He first laid eyes on Nancy in ninth grade chemistry class. She still has the collection of love poems he scribbled out for her on lined notebook paper during their teenage years sealed in a scrapbook.

Their memories of their early relationship sometimes differed, but they agreed that a pivotal moment came during their senior year at Penn State University, when they competed together in a 48-hour dance marathon to raise money for a cancer charity. With their brothers and sisters from Pi Kappa Phi and Alpha Xi Delta cheering them on, they bounced and twisted their feet black and blue for two days straight. They ended up coming in second in money raised but, as Nancy would remember, “first in spirit and dedication.” The event would take on a special significance later in life.

“You get closer whenever you’re doing something to hold each other up, when you have to rely on the other person for mental and emotional support,” Nancy said. “You’re giving it your all, you’ve lasted the 48 hours, and you’ve lasted because of the support of the people who care about you.”

They eloped in New Orleans after graduating, marrying on a city streetcar one October night with a gaggle of colleagues, a case of champagne, and a grocery store sheet cake. Though they spent just two years in the city, they were intoxicated by its rich history and culture and took it with them when they moved. They held raucous Mardi Gras parties complete with sazeracs and second line fare every year at their home in Virginia, and they renewed their wedding vows in Jackson Square in spring 2021 with a jazz trumpeter serenading them as they strolled through the French Quarter.

“We never lost track of each other’s needs and desires, did we,” Hawkins wrote to his wife in April, after his health took a turn for the worse. “Sure we spent years with the mechanics of a life — buying houses and cars, working for a living day-in and day-out, spending countless hours at swim meets and soccer games,” he wrote. “But we still looked forward to those warm nights alone together, kept romance alive…and treated each other like King and Queen.”

Hawkins’s love for Nancy was matched only by his love for their children.

He shared a passion for music with his oldest, Derek. He taught him how to play “Norwegian Wood” by the Beatles on piano, introduced him to the likes of Elvis Costello and John Coltrane, and bought him his first guitar when he was a preteen. Together they attended more concerts than they could count, most memorably a tour de force performance by Tom Waits in Atlanta in 2008.

For Brent, his second child and the first to have kids of his own, Hawkins embraced the role of Grandpop. He doted over Brent’s adopted daughter, rooting for her at soccer games and gushing about her drawings of owls and dragons. As the family grew and the demands of new fatherhood intensified, Brent said he’d center himself by asking, “What would Dad do in this situation?” Even after Hawkins fell ill, he remained a constant presence in the lives of his grandchildren, reading them the same books he read his kids and tucking them in for naps.

The youngest of three himself, Hawkins went out of his way to make Danica, his baby girl, feel like she wasn’t living in her brothers’ shadow. He’d take her to “rock n’ roll” ice skating; on Fridays at the Mount Vernon Recreation Center while her brothers had swim meets, beaming from the sides as she skittered across the ice under the disco lights. On beach trips, he’d always plan a special outing with her, like the time they visited a nature reserve in the Outer Banks and looked at sea creatures under the sand.

Jamison Scott Hawkins was born on May 23, 1955, in Norristown, Pa., to Marian and Paul Hawkins. He was captivated by the space race from an early age. Rockets, satellites, and the night sky awed him; he’d recall how watching coverage of the Gemini spaceflight missions of the 1960s moved him to tears as a boy. In middle school, he was “bit by the weather bug,” as he’d put it. He’d give weather forecasts to his homeroom classes and scan for storm updates on TV long before the Weather Channel existed.

“I knew I wanted to study it. I was fascinated by it,” he said in a 2020 interview about his work in weather science. “It started as a hobby, and getting to college and learning what was really going on behind it was an awakening because not only do you realize there are physical forces behind weather that you can describe with mathematics, but you start to realize that so much depends on weather.”

After graduating with a meteorology degree from Penn State, he went into weather forecasting, then joined the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He started out working in operational meteorology and climatological studies, then pivoted to weather satellite development and remote sensing analysis. He concluded his 25 years in government as a deputy administrator for the National Ocean Service.

In the mid-aughts, he launched a successful independent consulting business and was soon after tapped to join Lockheed Martin’s satellite division. There, he rose to become director of the company’s civil space and environmental programs. He retired in 2020.

Outside of work, he eagerly shared his deep knowledge and boundless enthusiasm about weather with others. He took a keen interest in nurturing the next generation of weather scientists, becoming a fellow in the American Meteorological Society and networking with Penn State meteorology students and alumni. And he always offered his expertise to anyone who had questions about what was going on in the sky above them.

Danica recalled: “You’d say, ‘What’s with all this rain?’ And he’d explain it to you, and he wouldn’t just use layman’s terms. He’d always try to go deeper and turn it into a lesson. It wasn’t just an answer to a question, it was, ‘Here’s how we figure out the answer, and here’s how to think critically about it.’”

Studying the weather not only gave Hawkins a fulfilling career — it helped him find meaning and tranquility in the world around him. In reflective moments, he’d often reference parts of his favorite poem, “The Ceaseless Wind,” written by meteorologist

John A. Dutton:
“Each vast current,
each small eddy
is conceived upon a balance
and is born
in dynamic labor.
Each passes on
and leaves the monument of thermal calm,
of thermal peace.”

Hawkins is survived by his wife; his children and their spouses, Maureen, Stephanie, and Dave; his five grandchildren, Helena, Charlotte, Magnus, Frederik, and Harlan; his sister Susan and brother Randy; and a panoply of extended family and friends.

Family will receive friends at their home on Saturday, June 4 starting at 3pm. His celebration of life at the family home will begin at 4pm. Refreshments will be served
until 7.

In lieu of flowers or gifts, please share a memory or photo of Jamie with the family.

Offer Condolence for the family of Jamie Hawkins

Condolence Messages

  1. Chuck Piercy says:

    My sincere condolences to the family. I worked with Jamie off and on for the last 30 years, first at NOAA and then later as competitors on the contractor side.

    I have never met anyone so full of enthusiasm for life and his profession as Jamie.

    Jamie contributed a great deal to the Nation’s Weather Enterprise and will be greatly missed.

  2. John Paquette says:

    Dear Nancy and Family,

    It comes as a complete shock and terrible sadness to hear about the passing of Jamie. I just heard about his passing on June 6. My sincere condolences to you and the Hawkins family. Jamie was one of the original SAB’ers and a pleasure to know as a friend and colleague at NOAA. He always brought a special energy to the room. As you know, we were the “Hoseheads,” a close group that attended friendly gatherings and took exciting cross-country skiing trips (remember the time we all piled up at the same tree at the bottom of the hill? – hilarious). I have very fond memories of all these get-togethers and camaraderie; they will never be forgotten.

    Hope the Hawkins family finds solace during this time of sorrow by recalling all the good things given by Jamie’s life.

    With Sincerity,

    John Paquette

  3. Al Gaseiwski says:

    Many of my NOAA, LMCO, and other colleagues knew Jamie and respected him for his endless enthusiasm and search for progress in satellite meteorology. He always looked and seemed (from his outlook) about ten years younger than his actual age – and while we can’t all look that way we can all take a lesson from him regarding his perennially youthful outlook.

    We will miss him.

  4. Brian Foley says:

    Dear Nancy,
    So sorry Tina and I will not be able to attend Jamie’s memorial service. I remember a trip back to PSU With Jamie and Jim Bono. Jamie was predicting snow, only to be dismissed by Jim and me. After all it was 70 deg. and sunny. Three hours later we were stranded on 322 waiting for the PenDot salt trucks to arrive so we could complete our journey to Happy Valley. Jamie was one of the most brilliant, loquacious guys I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Always looked forward to our all too brief and infrequent visits to 151 Oxford Circle. So very sorry for you and your family’s loss of him. Brian

  5. John MIller says:

    For The Hawkins Family
    June 4, 2022

    Jamie burst into my Green Suite room at Pi Kappa Phi in the fall of 1976 with an album in his hands (for those of you less than 40 years old, that is what we called the vinyl disc music was played on, back then).

    Now, when I say he burst in, that is exactly what he always did. Think Kramer in Seinfeld type burst in (sorry kids, another old person reference). And like Kramer, when Jamie showed up, things were absolutely going to take a sudden turn, most certainly for the better. The conversation would detour, whatever you planned on doing was forgotten, and the energy level would go up about 20 degrees.

    “You have to hear this new album. It’s by Tom Waits and it is great!” None of us had ever heard of Tom Waites, but the Cover art of strippers had our attention, and we would soon learn the 7th song was titled “Pasties and a G-string”. Jamie convinced us to stop listening to Fleetwood Mac and hear “Small Change” from cover to cover. And we did listen to it – over and over.
    Jamie must have repeated this scenario a dozen times that night, because by the weekend, just about everyone at Pi Kapp was listening to Tom Waites. The still mostly unknown Tom Waites became a local legend because of Jamie and we repeated the great lines like “The Piano Has Been Drinking, Not Me”, regularly.

    Tom and Jamie were a lot alike. Crazy funny, able to paint a picture with a story, full of double entendre, talented in many ways, and just a little off center. But unlike Mr. Waites, Mr. Hawkins never sang the blues.

    The 3rd song is entitled “I wish I was back in New Orleans”. I was an unemployed recent college graduate in 1978 when I went to New Orleans to visit Jamie and Nancy, staying with them for several fun filled days. Days out and around New Orleans, Creole cooking, seeing a new city. And, of course, boozy nights on Bourbon Street, until Jamie had to go forecast offshore oil well weather from midnight to 6 am. Nancy and I would get enough sleep to be ready to go again when Jamie got back. But I honestly don’t think Jamie slept the whole time I was there.

    When I got the word that Jamie had left us, I immediately pulled out my copy of “Small Change” and listened to it cover to cover. It seemed like Tom was singing the blues one last time for Jamie and I couldn’t stop thinking that “I Wish I Was Back in New Orleans”.

  6. Dan Beall says:

    Nancy, my sincere condolences go out to you and your family during this time of mourning. I had the privilege of working with Jamie for several years on the Environmental Satellite Processing and Distribution System. Jamie was the ultimate professional and brought an enthusiasm to the work that positively impacted the team on a daily basis. I will miss seeing him at AMS annual meetings and reminiscing about the good times over a beer. My families prayers are with you and your family.

  7. George Wilkinson says:

    Jamie and I worked together for a couple of years about 10 years ago, and he was always an inspiration to me. He brought a refreshing zeal to his work, a level of excitement, wonder, and joy that lifted the spirits of all around him. He was always the one who reminded us how important our work was, and his enthusiasm was contagious. He carried his sense of wonder throughout every aspect of his life, and you could feel the pride he felt, and the joy he got from the milestones in his kids lives, and the events and concerts he attended with them, and the time he spent with family.

    I quoted Jamie the other day. In fact, I reached out to him recently, and had a very nice chat. We’d worked together supporting an initiative that was ill fated from the start. Ten years ago, he said “It’s like there are two teams tunneling through the mountain, and nobody told them where to meet in the middle.” We shouted from the rooftops at what folly they were asking us to do. We just got word that they’re finally winding it down, after never having come close to achieving its purpose. He was right. Again.

    I always enjoyed his company, and I will forever remember him fondly.

  8. Rob Valentine says:

    So sorry for your lose, Mr. Hawkins was a amazing man with a amazing family. I have many fond memories from my childhood hanging out with DJ at the Hawkins household. Prayers for your family in this hard time.

  9. Bob Igo says:

    Nancy, Derek, Brent and Danica

    I’m so sorry for the loss of Jamie and I’m sure there will be a large hole filed with memories…they will be good memories of a wonderful father, husband and friend.

    I first met Jamie and Nancy one night at a party in January or February of 1974 and those two were matched then and you could tell it was forever.

    After school, we drifted apart until Jamie barged back into my life showing up at my front door on Halloween night wearing a monster mask! For the last 20 or so years, we’ve had a wonderful relationship as people who are somewhat opposites but have that unique connection and fit well together.

    Early on after the mask incident, we would meet at the “Diner” for breakfast before my work and his alumni group meetings and I got to know a little bit about you “kids”. He was very proud of you and wondered how you would grow up…he loved you very much. We would visit every time he came up and we got to fish together several times and you were always a main topic of discussion.

    Nancy, I can’t imagine how this is for you, but I can say you were his best friend, the love of his life, and he adored you. Like the great philosopher Forrest Gump said, the two of you were like “peas and carrots”.

    There is a hole now in my life to be filled with memories of a wonderful man and good friend. That hole will be filled with you and many great times with Jamie.

    My very best to you!
    Bob

  10. Jane madden says:

    Nancy, I was so sorry to hear about Jamie. You two totally had a very special relationship. All my swimming memories are centered around you two and how much fun we had. Take care.

  11. Jessica Thiel says:

    To the Hawkins Family, I’m so sorry to hear of Jamie’s death. I will never forget his announcement voice at swim meets and his enthusiasm for life. He was so good at being interested and curious in the people he was talking to, and engaged with everyone fully. It saddens me deeply to hear this news, but when I think of him I can only see his smile and his exuberance. He is part of many core memories of mansion house swimming. Sending all of my love and prayers during your time of grief. I hope his death was as painless and peaceful as possible, and you are comforted by all of the love those he touched had for him. Warmest regards, Jessica

  12. Evans family says:

    Our thoughts and prayers are with your family in this time of sorrow. May God comfort you to his Word the Bible in the gift of prayer. Thinking of you all.

  13. Helen Rosemier says:

    So sorry for your loss. My husband Matt and I met Jamison and his son at the Tom Waits concert in 2008 and have stayed friends on Facebook ever since. He was an amazing man. Sending condolences to the whole family from London, UK. Much love and best wishes. Happy memories.

  14. Susie Bowers says:

    Nancy and family,

    I am so very sorry about the death your husband, father and grandfather. I remember him as such a kind soul.

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