The Hermiston community and its agricultural industry lost a “true warrior” with the death of Phil Hawman.
Hawman died Friday after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
He leaves behind a legacy of community activism and his contributions to the ag community landed him in the Oregon State University College of Agricultural Sciences Hall of Fame.
Phil Hamm, director of the Hermiston Agriculture Research & Extension Center (HAREC), said Hawman played a big role getting the center’s first four center pivots.
“The story goes that the growers no longer thought doing research under hand line irrigation was adequate for providing the new information needed by them since they were using center pivot systems,” said Hamm. “The equipping of this station with pivots put us ahead of all other research stations in the country and we continue with that tradition started by Phil and others at that time with the addition of nine more since then. That initial donation of pivots to the station had a value of $200,000. I remember his using his dozer more than once to help out on a project at the station. Clearly, he understood the importance of this station and what it could provide the agriculture community in the region.”
Hawman was born in Whiteson, an unincorporated town in Yamhill County in 1931. After high school, Phil attended Oregon State University, where he graduated with a degree in agricultural education. After graduation, he joined the Air Force, where he served as a pilot for 12 years, retiring with the rank of major.
Hawman and his wife, Ardele, bought a small farm outside of Dayton, Ore, where they grew a diverse number of crops and eventually encompassed 1,200 irrigated acres.
The Hawmans moved the farm to Hermiston in 1982. Along with being honored multiple times for his corn, Hawman also developed a new variety of perennial ryegrass seed, called Pavillion and marketed it internationally. He was a champion of grass seed in the Columbia Basin.
In his letter nominating him for the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences Hall of Fame, Hamm said Hawman was always generous is helping the larger ag community.
“Phil has been an outstanding example of someone who has shown his willingness and commitment to serve the agricultural interests of Oregon,” Hamm wrote. He has shown his leadership abilities by diversifying the crop base of the Columbia Basin by showing first that grass seed can do well here through his own personal trials and then sharing that information with other growers.”
Hawman was also very active outside the ag community. He served as a member of the Hermiston Chamber of Commerce, vice chair of the Hermiston Fire Department, and was on the advisory Committee of the Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center.
Hamm said he will not only miss Hawman’s contributions to agriculture, but his friendship, as well.
“He was a great guy,” Hamm said. “We spent many hours together elk and pheasant hunting. I still have a picture on my desk of our first elk we literally killed together. That time and many more I will never forget. The community and agriculture lost a true warrior and friend, and his family lost much more.”
A graveside service with military honors will be held on Saturday, Jan. 31 at 1 p.m. at the Hermiston Cemetery. A celebration of life service will follow at 2 p.m. at the Hermiston Church of the Nazarene.
Read his full obituary here.
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