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- August 12, 1996
- Vol. 46
- No. 7
A Life Not in Vain
Alice Hawthorne Died in the Bombing at Atlanta's Centennial Olympics, Leaving Behind Not Simply Anger but a Living Legacy of Abundant Goodwill
Every two years the Olympic Games mints a new set of heroes, but Hawthorne, who was killed by a pipe bomb that rocked Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park in the early hours of July 27, stands alone. She was neither a world-class athlete nor even a ticket-holder to any of the sold-out sporting events. She was simply drawn to Atlanta to be there. An activist and bridge builder in her racially mixed community of 98,000, she wanted no more than to bask briefly in the spirit of cheerful harmony embodied by the Olympics. Now her place in the history of the Games has been indelibly stamped by the act of criminal cowardice that took her life (see page 43). "There was no way she was not going up to those Olympics," says her friend Lois Crumbley softly. "I just can't believe she's not coming back."
Hawthorne and Fallon had been in Atlanta only a short time before they headed to a free, open-air concert by Jack Mack and the Heart Attack, a rhythm-and-blues band with many fans in Georgia—among them Fallon, an outgoing ninth grader who had plans to attend Albany's Westover High School in the fall. Mother and daughter were among a dancing throng of thousands when, at 1:25 a.m., a pipe bomb blast shattered the gaiety. Deadly shrapnel felled Hawthorne while injuring Fallon and 110 others. (Melih Uzunyol, 40, a cameraman for Turkish TV, died of a heart attack while rushing to videotape the blast's aftermath.) Osteopath John Vogel, 34, happened to be in the park after attending a track and field event. He grabbed a flashlight from a policeman and began aiding the wounded. When he found Hawthorne, with grave head injuries, lying in a puddle of blood, her pulse was barely perceptible. "It was very obvious she was the most seriously injured [victim] I had seen," says Vogel. Aided by a nurse, he tried CPR, but to no avail. Hawthorne was pronounced dead on arrival at Grady Memorial Hospital.
Fallon, meanwhile, had suffered a lacerated right arm and thigh and had broken a finger, apparently when the blast knocked her to the ground. After being treated at nearby Georgia Baptist Medical Center (and a quick visit with members of the U.S. men's basketball Dream Team at Atlanta's Omni Hotel), she checked out on July 30. "She's doing fine," says her father, John Stubbs, 43, a Masonite factory worker. On August 3, politicians, athletes and friends were scheduled to join Fallon and her family to pay tribute to Hawthorne at a service in Atlanta.
If there is one thing Hawthorne's neighbors already miss, it is the cheerful good nature they had come to rely on. "I think I never saw her without a smile, never saw her fuss," says her boss, TCI cable's Albany office general manager Jim Walker. Born and raised in the Atlanta suburb of Douglasville, Hawthorne moved to Albany in 1970 to attend predominantly African-American Albany State College (now University), where she studied, with several long interruptions, until she earned a marketing degree in 1994. According to her brother-in-law Thomas Hawthorne, Alice met her husband, municipal economic development manager John Hawthorne Jr., now 47, as a college student, and they were married in 1987. (Alice and Stubbs ended their 10-year marriage in 1984. From a previous relationship, Alice had an older daughter, Adoria Minor, 22, an Albany public safety dispatcher.)
Alice Hawthorne had a zest for life—and she shared it. An active parent and band booster at Fallon's school—"She came when you called, and she came when you didn't call," says principal Holly Thursby—she helped stage an annual high school public-speaking contest. As the unofficial social chairwoman of American Legion Post 512, she organized Easter egg hunts, Halloween games to get kids off the streets and (as an ardent football fan) Super Bowl parties. "It's hard to think of the Super Bowl without Alice," says Post senior vice commander Jeremiah Paschal.
In 1993, Hawthorne opened Fallon's Hot Dog & Ice Cream Parlor (named for her daughter), fulfilling her longtime dream of owning a business. "One time she tasted some of my barbecue at a cookout, and one thing led to another," says Curtis Kennedy, managing partner of Fallon's. At the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, friends say, Hawthorne worked hard to help others, especially African-Americans, launch their own businesses. She even waived the first six months' rent so a young hairdresser could open a salon in a shopping center the Hawthornes own on the edge of downtown Albany. "She felt we all needed to move forward together," says Chamber of Commerce president Jones Hooks. "We've come a long way because of people like Alice."
Ironically, her last contribution was made to the Olympics. As a goodwill ambassador for the Chamber, she tirelessly organized and publicized the running of the Olympic torch through Albany, on its way from Greece to the Games in Atlanta. Even though the torch reached the city after 1 a.m. on July 12, more than 10,000 people turned out to watch. Two weeks later, Hawthorne herself followed the flame to Atlanta.
DON SIDER in Albany and GAIL WESCOTT in Atlanta
- Don Sider,
- Gail Wescott.
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