Doris F. Hawman, school speech therapist, dies

Actress who was a founding member of the Phoenix Players specialized in comedy roles

  • Doris Hawman
Doris Hawman
May 23, 2011|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun | Baltimore Sun reporter

Doris F. Hawman, a retired Baltimore County public school speech therapist who was active in community theater, died Thursday of cancer at her Perry Hall home.

She was 78.

Doris Frisch, the daughter of the supervisor of roads for Baltimore County and a homemaker, was born in Phoenix, Baltimore County, and raised on the family farm in Jacksonville.

After graduating from Towson High School in 1951, she married Kenneth J. Hawman. The couple settled in Bridgeport, Conn, while he earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Bridgeport.

They returned to Jacksonville, where they lived until 1990, when they moved to Perry Hall.

After raising her three children, Mrs. Hawman entered college when she was in her 40s. She earned a bachelor's degree in 1981 and a master's degree two years later, both in speech therapy, from what is now Towson University.

Mrs. Hawman worked as a rotating speech therapist in city public schools — primarily Martin Luther King Elementary School, said her husband, who retired from Westinghouse Electric Corp., where he had been a project manager.

She later went to work in a similar position for Baltimore County public schools at Essex and Bear Creek elementary schools. She was working at Stoneleigh Elementary School at the time of her 1991 retirement.

"Her reputation as a teacher and a speech therapist was very good. The kids loved her and wanted to go to her because she was so funny," said Mary J. Drake, a retired city public school speech therapist, who became friends with Mrs. Hawman during their college days at Towson. "Even though she was crazy-funny, she took great pride in helping children."

Mrs. Hawman, who enjoyed acting, was one of the founding members in the early 1970s of the Sweet Air Footlighters, now the Phoenix Players, and had earlier been a member of the Long Green Valley Players.

Mrs. Hawman, who acted in more than 50 productions over the years, brought to the stage her gregarious personality and love of comedy and the absurd.

"She loved harebrained parts and especially Neil Simon comedies," said her husband.

Judy M. Jarava, who is secretary of the Phoenix Players and an actress, said she especially appreciated Mrs. Hawman's at times daring sense of humor.

"She'd say things that I'd only think about saying. She'd tease my husband about wearing a thong, and he'd blush. There was nothing fuddy-duddy about her," Mrs. Jarava said with a laugh.

"She was a very funny lady with a great sense of humor. She only used her humor for the best of intentions. She really was very vibrant, outgoing and very funny," she said.

Mrs. Jarava, who knew Mrs. Hawman for nearly 20 years, recalled her playing Mrs. Paddy in "The Curious Savage."

"She played a mental patient in a hospital, and her lines were rhymed, which required a great deal of concentration because she repeated the same thing over and over," she said.

Mrs. Hawman had not given up acting at the time of her death, her husband said.

"Doris was one in a million and was one of the best things that ever happened in my life. She was one of those people that everyone wanted to be around because she cared about people," said Mrs. Drake. "When she spoke to you, she focused on you. She was a silly and funny person."

Mrs. Drake recalled that her friend had a "fabulous spontaneous sense of humor" that was self-deprecating and "wonderfully naughty."

She recalled that Mrs. Hawman was quite the bargain shopper and was always purchasing things for family and friends.

"If I look around any room in my house, there are 10 or 15 things that Doris bought for me," said Mrs. Drake. "Doris bargained the world over and even bargained her own funeral. She told the director what she wanted and asked for a 10 percent discount. He gave her 5."

She was a member of the Red Hat Society, a national organization whose members sport red hats, and a founder of the Jacksonville chapter.

"If I were a restaurant owner and saw them coming with their red hats and kazoos, I'd lock up," Mr. Hawman said with a laugh.

For the past 12 years, the couple spent their winters at a second home in Stuart, Fla. They also liked traveling and taking cruises.

Mrs. Hawman had been a member for 61 years of St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church, 3911 Sweet Air Road, Phoenix, where services will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

In addition to her husband of 59 years, Mrs. Hawman is survived by two sons, Keith Hawman of Joppatowne and Scott Hawman of Oahu, Hawaii; a daughter, Martha Hawman-Preznicky of Arlington, Va.; two brothers, John C. Frisch of Joppa and Leslie Frisch of Berlin; a sister, Joyce Kleiderlein of Bel Air; and six grandchildren.

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