Cover photo for Romona Geneva Hawes's Obituary
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Romona Geneva Hawes

February 19, 1933 — June 30, 2024


Romona Geneva Hawes

Born on February 19, 1933, Romona Geneva (Vance) Hawes was the second of five children of George Thomas Vance and Lula Mae (Adair) Vance. A bustling farm life on her family’s land off Bussey Road in Turner County, Georgia, was always home to Geneva, where she eventually returned. Being a rather small child, her father lovingly called her Nubbin.

Geneva grew up in a loving family and, from an early age, fully embraced her life of farm chores and tending animals. Learning to cook from her mother, she was the quintessential southern cook. She thoroughly enjoyed being in the kitchen whipping up delicious meals for her family. In a sense, it was her love language. She also enjoyed preparing jelly and canning homegrown vegetables.

Besides cooking and baking, her mother taught her to sew on their treadle sewing machine. Geneva excelled as a seamstress, eventually sewing exquisite clothing for herself and most of her children’s clothing when they were younger.

Hard work on the farm never bothered Geneva, and as a young girl, she drove a horse-drawn hay rake on the farm. Picking cotton, peas, or watermelons was all part of a day’s work, as was walking a mile to school on then-unpaved Bussey Road. She began her education at Bussey School and graduated from Sycamore High School in 1949.

After graduating, Geneva worked in doctors’ offices in Tifton and Ashburn. It was the job in Ashburn that became more important to her life than she could have imagined. Taking a call to the office one day from a young man she did not know who asked her for a date, Geneva gave a curt “no” and hung up. That short exchange was the first between the farm girl and Staff Sergeant Ralph Hawes, the man she would be wed for over seventy years.

Ralph, a North Carolina native stationed at Turner Air Force Base in Albany, often meandered the country roads of Turner County after duty each evening. On one fateful day, he found his way to Ashburn, and as he stood near Highway 41 across from the long-gone Ashburn Hardware store, he glimpsed the lovely Geneva Vance, wearing a bright red coat she had sewn, entering a store with her mother. Finding out who she was became particularly important to Ralph. 

Not giving up easily, Ralph tried again, and Geneva agreed to a date with him. Their first date was to a park near Fitzgerald, where they talked and had the simple pleasure of swinging on the swings. Ralph soon became a part of her family, and their love grew. Geneva often had to give Ralph money for gas to drive the 40 miles back and forth from Albany to Sycamore each day. They were married at a preacher’s house in Tifton on February 28, 1953, followed by a honeymoon - a dinner at the Alpine Restaurant in Tifton, a gift from her parents. That distinctive red coat is now a family heirloom.

They moved to Albany and set up their first of many homes together. She had her first son, Ralph Jr., at the Turner AFB hospital. Shortly after that, she went with Ralph when he was transferred to Kelly AFB in San Antonio, Texas, where she had sons Raleigh and Tom at the base hospital at Lackland AFB, also in San Antonio.

In 1959, Ralph was assigned a year-long isolated duty in Greenland. Geneva and the boys returned to her parents’ farm while he was away. Upon Ralph’s return to the States, the family moved to Albany, where Ralph was again stationed at Turner AFB, where her fourth son, James, was born at the base hospital.

In Albany, her boys began school, played baseball, and joined the Cub Scouts. Geneva supported them by participating in the Parent Teachers Association, watching all their ball games, helping with their school or other projects, and doing hundreds of other things moms do behind the scenes. If they needed a Daniel Boone costume for a play, she sewed them one. Geneva was devoted to her family in every way.

She managed her household of four active boys alone while Ralph was assigned another year-long overseas assignment in Thailand. He returned in 1965, again assigned to Turner AFB.

In 1967, the family moved to Little Rock Air Force Base in Jacksonville, Arkansas. In 1971, they were assigned to Karamursel Common Defense Installation in Turkey. In her free time, she volunteered as a Red Cross volunteer in the hospitals of both bases.

The family moved to Ramstein Air Base in West Germany in 1973. Their last posting was to F.E. Warren AFB in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where Ralph retired from the Air Force in 1977.

The farm girl from Turner County, Georgia, moved back to her family’s farm in Sycamore upon Ralph’s retirement, building a home in a corner of that land. Over the next 46 years, Geneva kept busy with fruit, flower, and vegetable gardening. She canned and preserved part of everything they harvested. She quilted beautifully, enjoyed making floral arrangements, and took up making stained glass, producing many lovely items for family and friends. Cooking for and entertaining her family remained a constant theme in her life.

In February 2023, Ralph and Geneva celebrated the 70th year of their loving and happy marriage. Geneva and Ralph were longtime, devoted members of Bethel Baptist Church in Sycamore until they could no longer attend due to health. 

Geneva left this life on June 30, 2024, at Cypress Pond Senior Care in Tifton after a prolonged debilitating illness. Her caring and loving spirit will be greatly missed.

Geneva was predeceased by Ralph, the love of her life, her parents, sisters Audrey Jane Parfitt, Sarah Lynda Payne, and brother George Norris.

She is survived by her brother Jimmy (Dianne) of Albany, Georgia; sons Ralph Jr. (Sycamore); Raleigh (Kay) of Acworth, Georgia; Tom (Gerri) of Allen, Texas; James (Filiz) of Westminster, Maryland; and grandchildren Ashton of North Salt Lake City, Utah; Catherine Spafford (Ben) of Plano, Texas; and Samuel (Natalie) of Dallas, Texas.

Her family would like to express gratitude to the staffs of Maple Court Senior Care, Cypress Pond Senior Care, Abide Home Care, and Traditions Health for their respectful, thoughtful, and reliable care of their mother. 

Funeral services will be held at 10:00 AM Friday, July 5, 2024 at Bethel Baptist Church with interment to follow in the church cemetery. The family will greet friends from 9:00 AM until the hour of service Friday, July 5, 2024 at Bethel Baptist Church.

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