Metro-East News

Longtime board member dies after collapsing while leaving Madison County meeting

Helen Hawkins: A look back at her life

Helen Hawkins, 89, collapsed and died as she walked to the elevator with a group of people after a Planning and Development Committee meeting Thursday night, according to spokeswoman Cynthia Ellis.
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Helen Hawkins, 89, collapsed and died as she walked to the elevator with a group of people after a Planning and Development Committee meeting Thursday night, according to spokeswoman Cynthia Ellis.

A longtime Madison County board member died Thursday night after collapsing at the administration building as she left the committee meeting where she had just spoken.

Helen Hawkins, 89, collapsed as she walked to the elevator with a group of people after a Planning and Development Committee meeting, according to spokeswoman Cynthia Ellis.

Hawkins was standing by the elevators when she passed out, Madison County Board member Mick Madison said. Capt. Gary Burns with the Madison County Sheriff’s Department performed CPR until paramedics arrived.

Hawkins was not a member of the committee, Ellis wrote, but spoke during the public comment portion Thursday evening.

Hawkins served as a county board member since 2002 and the Nameoki Township clerk for the past 25 years, according to Ellis. She was seeking re-election to the county board this November.

She was also a member of the Metro East Sanitary District Board.

Chairman Kurt Prenzler said in the release that Hawkins’ death came as a shock to everyone.

“Helen cares about the people in her community and it’s the reason she was at the meeting,” Prenzler said in the release.

Hawkins’ name was slated to appear on the Nov. 6 ballot along with her challenger, Susan Presswood, an Independent from Granite City.

The Madison County Democratic Party can nominate another candidate anytime up until 15 days before the election, according to Matt Dietrich, spokesman for the Illinois State Board of Elections. Mark Von Nida, the county’s circuit clerk, is chairman of the Democratic Party.

Von Nida said Friday morning it was too soon to discuss who will replace Hawkins on the ballot.

Early voting begins Sept. 27.

Hawkins is known for speaking out in support of residents in the flood-prone Dobrey Slough area of Granite City, the news release noted.

“Her involvement in flooding issues started in 1964 when she moved to the area and she showed constant passion in trying to prevent flooding in homes and businesses,” Ellis wrote.

Prenzler said in the release that Hawkins was a true public servant.

Madison added that Hawkins was a “class act and someone who believed in doing the right thing for the people in her district.”

“The last thing she did was stand up for people she believed in,” Madison said.

IMG_063017OutstandingSer_2_1_AHBVU9V5_L330854224 (1)
Helen Hawkins receives an Outstanding Service Award at a regular meeting of the Madison County Board. Submitted by Linda Knogl

According to the release, Hawkins spoke at the ceremony in January for her induction into the Senior Hall of Fame.

“Whatever you can do or think you can do: do it. As you get older, don’t slow down. Speed up. There’s less time left,” she told the crowd.

Hawkins career accomplishments also include:

She worked with the late Illinois Governor Richard B. Ogilive. She was appointed a committee in the 1970s to work on a storm outlet plan in and around Horseshoe Lake and the American Bottoms.

She fought to dissolve the former East Side Levee and Sanitary District and it’s corruption.

She was inducted into the Illinois Senior Citizen Hall of Fame by the Illinois Department of Aging.

She was a member of including American Legion Women’s Auxiliary, the AmVets Ladies Auxiliary and the VFW Women’s Auxiliary.

She enlisted the Granite City School District in Valentines For Vets, which sends valentines to veterans stationed overseas.

Kelsey Landis: 618-239-2110, @KelseyLandis

Dana Rieck: 618-239-2642, @ByDanaRieck
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