A South Ozone Park native who spent over two months working at ground zero and served as a member of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s security team, died of cancer last week.
Detective Kevin Hawkins, a 20-year NYPD veteran, received a kidney cancer diagnosis nine months before passing away at Calvary Hospital in the Bronx on Monday morning. Hawkins, 41, was assigned to ground zero on the evening of Sept. 11, 2001 and spent two months at the site. He was then transferred to the NYPD’s Intelligence Division and to Mayor-elect Bloomberg’s security detail on Nov. 15, 2001. Prior to joining the Police Department, Hawkins, a U.S. Marine reservist, completed two tours in the Persian Gulf War.
Though he lived with his family on Staten Island, dozens of former South Ozone Park residents joined his family members and the hundreds of police officers at his funeral Mass at Our Lady Of Perpetual Help on 115th Street on Thursday. Hawkins went to Our Lady Of Perpetual Help School through the eighth grade before moving on to St. Francis Prep.
“He was a strong, tough guy. Always someone that you can count on,” said childhood friend and Perpetual Help classmate Chris Demers.
Hawkins’ two eulogists, Father Patrick West and Bloomberg, echoed these sentiments. The mayor said that Hawkins possessed “an unwavering commitment to doing what was right.”
He recalled, with a wide smile on his face, Hawkins’ habit of stealing the Science Times section from his New York Times and his ability to solve the same newspaper crossword puzzles that so frustrated his colleagues.
He added: “The only thing that surpassed his dedication to others was his dedication to his family.”
Hawkins’ wife Marie, son Nicholas, 17, and daughters Stephanie, 14, and Natalie, 6, survive him. Hawkins’ mother, Dottie, sat beside them through the Mass.
Citing protocol regarding the security of the city’s leaders and distinguished guests, an NYPD spokesman declined comment on Hawkins’ specific assignment. But Bloomberg recalled greeting Hawkins the first thing each morning and said simply: “His job was to make sure I was safe.”
West, who knew Hawkins as a young boy at the parish, also spoke with admiration of his sense of duty. “He gave you every reason to be proud of him,” West said.
The former Perpetual Help pastor choked back tears when describing his tenacity in his battle against his illness. “He doesn’t think I’m giving up, does He?” West recalled Hawkins asking, with a finger pointed skyward, on the day doctors decided to stop his radiation treatments.
Though Demers and other friends were reluctant to say with certainty that Hawkins’ time at ground zero caused his illness, they did note his exceptional fitness and virility before he suddenly became sick last year. For his own part, Hawkins believed that his condition was, at least to a degree, tied to his service at ground zero. Just weeks before he passed, he applied for a pension available to first responders who spent more than 40 hours at the site.
Hawkins is the second NYPD detective to die from illnesses that arose after serving at ground zero. In 2005, Detective James Zadroga died of lung disease, four years after he spent a month working 16-hour days on the still-smoldering ruins.