Erma Dean (Hawkins) Harris



(May 20, 1929 - August 20, 2009)


The Lusk Herald
August 19, 2009


Erma Dean Hawkins Harris

Services for Erma Dean Hawkins Harris, 80, took place at 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 15, 2009 at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church.

A luncheon at the church followed. Mourners traveled to the Lusk Cemetery afterward and layed her to rest at 3 p.m. in the family plot beside her parents.

Erma was born May 20, 1929 in a two-room log cabin her father built on the family homestead at the Hawkins Family Ranch outside Lusk in the Hat Creek Breaks. She grew up at the ranch with a sister Mary Porter and two brothers, Elwood and Kenneth Hawkins.

Erma spent her childhood riding her horse Chum with her sister across prairies of wildflowers and searching for tepee rings left behind by Native Americans. During blinding snowstorms coming home from the country school, she would cover up like an Eskimo, drop the reins and allow Chum to find their way back home.

Erma moved into town to attend Lusk High School, boarding at the Ranger Hotel because the family ranch was so far removed from town.

“She went home every single weekend because she loved being on that ranch,” said her daughter, Linda English of Casper.

Erma worked as a waitress at the XL Cafe during high school, taking great pride in serving the busloads of soldiers that would pass through town during World War II. Later in life, she fondly recounted the days of rationing staples such as sugar and nylons so those items could be used for the war effort.

“She was very patriotic,” Ms. English said.

Erma graduated from high school in 1947 and continued working at the XL, where she met an oilfield worker from Seymour, Texas who would become her husband.

Tad said a co-worker had told him of a beautiful waitress in town who he was bound to like so much that they would probably get married.

“He was right,” said Tad.

Tad not only ate breakfast at the XL every morning, he even brought along Erma’s toddler niece, Carolyn, on dates at night to the drive-in movie theatre.

“He had a nice car, a good job and didn’t spend his pay check chasing around or drinking at the bar,” said Vanetta Weatherford, a life-long friend who worked with Erma at the XL.

When Tad received a transfer to Canada, he drove to the XL and asked Erma to marry him. They eloped on the spot, stopped at the courthouse in Billings, Mt. for the ceremony and continued on toward Canada to begin their new life together.

“She left word with someone to go tell her parents that she was getting married and moving to Canada,” Ms. English said.

Erma gave birth to their daughter August 13, 1950 while living on her father-in-law’s cotton farm in Seymour Texas because Tad was recuperating from an oil field injury. There, she made quite an impression around town.

“All the women wore dresses down south, but she wore jeans and other western pants,” Ms English said. “That was the cowgirl in her.”

During the next five years, the family lived in Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, New Mexico and Canada. After spending eight years in Denver and Grand Junction, Colo., they returned to Wyoming for a job in Gillette.

During those years, she took care of their daughter, rose before dawn to pack Tad’s sack lunches and even pulled his truck with rope to jump start it on particularly cold mornings.

“I could have never made it without her support,” Tad said.

The couple bought a house, furniture and all, in 1966 on Bonnie Brae, where she would live for the rest of her life. During the next five decades, she immersed herself in gardening, preserving food, attending every night of the Central Wyoming Fair and Rodeo, driving for Meals on Wheels and volunteering with the Casper Humane Society.

Erma was a faithful member of the Episcopal Church, first joining Holy Trinity in Gillette and St. Steven’s in Casper before settling on St. Mark’s. She was a valuable member of the Alter Guild at each church.

In 1984, doctors diagnosed Erma with a major heart condition that required emergency open-heart surgery. Tad, fearful of the outcome, asked her what she would do if she had one wish granted to her. Erma said she had always wanted to stay in Denver’s Brown Palace Hotel while attending the National Western Stock Show.

Erma and her daughter Linda attended the stock show the following year, staying at the Brown Palace. It would become a yearly mother and daughter tradition until her health began to decline in 2007.

Erma is survived by her husband Tad Harris of Casper; daughter Linda English and her husband Bruce English of Casper; grandson Tad Whitaker, his wife Sarah Varney and their son Fountain Whitaker of San Francisco; niece Carolyn Dyer and her husband Ronnie Dyer of Crawford, Nebraska; great nephew Lex Dyer, his wife Casey Dyer and their children Braeden and Bailey Rose, of Casper; and great niece Torie Jacob, her husband Justin Jacob and their children Jessica and Tristin, of Casper.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Casper Humane Society, 849 East E Street, Casper, Wyoming 82601-2051 or St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 701 South Wolcott, Casper, Wyoming, 82601.








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