Alberni Valley resident Richard Hawksworth, 88, has lived in Port Alberni since 1946 and has worked and raised his family here. For the past 16 years, he has provided assistance to children in need in various areas of the world.
Born in Cameo, Saskatchewan, Richard was one of five siblings raised on a farm by his hard-working parents.
“My mother was Cree and French and my father—who was of English descent—worked as an electronic technician and radio operator,” said Hawksworth. “In the 1950s, he tracked down the first Russian satellite via radio signals!”
Hawksworth was a longshoreman for 30 years for the B.C. Maritime Association, and he worked later on as a car dealer.
“I am sure that many remember ‘Chatwin Motors’ here in town,” he said. “Well, I worked for that company for a few years. I also joined the staff of Katila Motors as a salesman back in the ’70s and Dennis Jonsson Chevrolet.”
As a young worker in 1949, one of his first jobs was working for a private company hired by the government to maintain the Alberni Highway.
“In those days it was difficult to drive on that road on the way to Port Alberni, especially during the winter months when lots of snow was blocking the way, thus creating lots of traffic jams,” he recalled.
What is important to highlight in Richard’s adult life is the volunteer work he does for a special Catholic Church program, “The Call of the Poor”—a charitable project aimed to care for the afflicted and destitute around the world.
As a volunteer for the project, he has raised thousands of dollars for the society by collecting empty cans and bottles from the streets of the city and rural roads of the Alberni Valley. Every collection of empty cans and bottles is taken to the local Bottle Depot and exhanged for money. This money, in turn, is sent to the Catholic Church in Manitoba and distributed to the main fundraising organization that sponsors the project.
“I do the collection of the empties, but we also get donations from others in the community for the project,” said Hawksworth. “Every refund is accompanied by a receipt.”
The job of collecting cans and bottles takes time and effort. Hawksworth does it by riding his bicycle to various points in the community on a weekly basis. During all these years that he has been involved in the project, he has picked up more than 150,000 bottles and cans for the cause.
“One can or bottle can buy a bowl of rice for a hungry kid!” he says.
When asked about the origin of this worthwhile cause, he said that “The Call of the Poor” was founded by the late Bishop Omer Robidoux, who dedicated 48 years of his life to the cause of the less fortunate. In the early ’80s, while visiting missionaries in certain countries of the Third World, Bishop Robidoux was shocked by the deplorable conditions that the poor in those countries were subjected to. His commitment and dedication and that of the many volunteers and benefactors has brought relief and help to the needy.
Richard, the father of three sons, lost his wife 37 years ago at the age of 48.
His long life in the Valley has made Richard a well-known individual—not only as a worker, but as a sports fan and practitioner. He is a softball and hockey player, baseball umpire, manager of a senior hockey team and a sports fisherman, among others.
As a fisherman, he experienced interesting stories—including one that took place several years ago, when his boat capsized down the Alberni Inlet and got him stranded for hours!
Hawksworth, despite suffering a number of serious accidents in his life which at times were life and death scares, has overcome those difficult moments with faith and hope. As he puts it: “Thanks to my belief in the Lord.”
Today, he continues his crusade to raise funds for the less fortunate.