Dodger Stadium usher worked to the end

Where once Dodger Stadium needed the old usher, now it was the old usher who needed Dodger Stadium.

"My father valued working, he valued family, and the Dodgers were all that for him," said daughter Irana Hawkins. "He just wanted to keep going and going and going."

The years passed, and The Hawk slowed, but the Dodgers were never going to release him. He endured open-heart surgery at 88 and still finished the season. Perhaps the oldest man in the park on this year's opening day was a guy who worked there.

"A great man like that, we would never tell him to leave, we would let him tell us when it's time to leave," said Sara A. Guzman, the Dodgers' manager of guest services. "He loved the people, and the people loved him."

For the last several years he was given a quiet spot on the eighth floor, allowed to sit in a plastic blue chair just inside the players' parking lot. He would direct fans navigating the nearby stairwell while giving a special greeting for the players' families as they arrived for the games.

"They're waiting for you," he would always say with a soft smile, the ultimate Dodgers host.

"He was the sweetest man in the world," said Ellen Kershaw, wife of pitcher Clayton Kershaw. "He was such a warm, welcoming person."

There was a moment last season when Hawkins wondered if that welcome was being returned. A pregame ceremony honoring longtime employees ran too long, and ended before his name was announced. But the minute Stan Kasten heard about it, the Dodgers president scheduled a special ceremony for Hawkins and another snubbed usher later in the season.

Hawkins was quietly rejuvenated that day with more stories, more smiles, and by the promise that he could do this forever.

"He did so much for us, I'm glad we could do something for him," Guzman said. "It was like we kept him going, kept him alive."

Indeed, after the old usher was taken from Dodger Stadium in May, he never returned. Less than a month after learning that his heart problems would cause him to miss work, he died at 91. His final correspondence with the team was a voice mail in which he apologetically called in sick.

At his funeral, the team answered that call, as more than two dozen Dodger Stadium ushers showed up in full uniform, bringing the family to tears.

"It was a huge surprise, a real sight to see," said his son Ira. "All these ushers came ready for a game."

The Dodgers honored the legend with a moment of silence, but his memory is going to last longer than a moment. The plastic blue chair on the eighth floor has not been moved. His locker has remained unopened. There are tentative plans to name the area near his final post the Ira Hawkins Memorial Hallway.

"Don't let them take me," the old usher pleaded.

Turns out, they didn't.


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