Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Remembrance: Greg Hawley

This morning's sad news proved that my self-imposed protective media shield isn't impermeable to all of the mass media's messages.

Reading that Greg Hawley was killed the other day really struck a chord with me.

Sure it's sad anytime you hear of someone's death, especially if the death is random and meaningless (as most are).

But Hawley's death seems to me a particular loss to the community.

I had several occasions to meet Hawley, once when I was profiling him and his museum for a local fishwrap and again when I was visiting the museum for fun with the family.

I don't claim to be a friend of his. He certainly wouldn't know me from any of the other thousands of slightly bald, slightly pudgy suburbanites. But I was and am a great admirer of what he and his family have done.

Here's a little background for those not familiar with the Hawley's: Greg and his friends and family decided, seemingly on a whim, to find and excavate one of the hundreds of legendary steamboats that sank in the Missouri River during the late 1800s.

When they found the Steamboat Arabia, it was buried under 50 feet of Missouri River bottom farmland. Still in the cargo hold was a veritable general store of everything a pioneer could need in the 1850s, including barrels of pickles that, according to Hawley, were still edible and delicious.

The Hawley's took the trove and opened the Steamboat Arabia museum which in my opinion is one of the jewels of Kansas City. It tells a story of the people who passed through, who stayed, who lived and died here.

In this time when chain stores and restaurants seem to be flooding the metro, when any project of meaningful size seems to be managed by an east coast or west coast company, the Hawleys just seem much more organic. They belong to Kansas City like barbecue and blues.

So the death of Greg is a loss to the city.

If you've never been to the Arabia museum, or even if it's been a while since your last visit, I think now is a good time to drop in, offer condolences to the family and learn a little about our local history.

I was with Greg Hawley, a great man
Thanks, Greg Hawley
I wouldn't wear that coat around the jail...
A Riverboat Legacy
A terrible loss for historical preservation

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  1. There aren't many places I can get my husband to visit, but we've been to the Steamboat Arabia museum with some Internet friends who gathered here a couple of years ago. Everyone was fascinated. I absolutely loved it!

    Truly a great loss.

  2. One of my all-time favorite books is Twain's Life On The Mississippi. So I know those old steamships were the shit. Sounds like an interesting guy.

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  4. He never returned the (collectible) book I let him borrow many years ago.


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