Blackwell J. Hawthorne died hours before his 88th birthday last Friday night at his home in North Arlington, a stone’s throw from the City of Falls Church. “Blackie,” as he was affectionately known to everyone, served from October 22, 1998 to March 17, 2009 in the advertising department of the Falls Church News-Press, before the onset of a long-term illness prevented him from coming to the office any more.
His 10 and a half years of unbroken employment at the News-Press made him the second-longest serving News-Press staffer, besides the owner-editor himself, in the newspaper’s 19-year history.
“Blackie” made quite an entrance when he first showed up at the News–Press office in late October 1998 at the age of 76. He was “mad as a wet hen,” he exclaimed, because his employer, a newspaper in Fairfax County where he’d worked for many years, cut him loose, and he wanted a job. Astonished by his sudden appearance, the News-Press editor shared glances with the only other person in the office, the two constituting the full staff of the paper at the time. “What great gift has just befallen us?,” they both thought.
From that day until last March, “Blackie” worked tirelessly as the director of advertising for the News-Press, bringing his lifetime of experience, charm, dignity, good humor, fierce loyalty and “street savvy” to his work. To many of the scores upon scores upon scores of new advertisers he brought to the paper, he was the face of the News-Press, the man they connected with it who always showed up to cajole them into advertising, to help them improve their ads, or to deliver papers to them each week to help grow the readership and the response levels to their ads. The News-Press could ask for no more superb an emissary in that role.
As he progressed into his mid-80s, “Blackie’s” energy and dedication were a marvel. While being known and loved by so many among local Falls Church business owners, he commanded the attention of everyone at the monthly luncheons of the local Chamber of Commerce when it came his turn to stand up and say a word about his business. In his inimitable style with his Southern Virginia drawl, he made it clear that if someone had a business and was not advertising in the News-Press, they were making a grave error.
“Blackie” was an inspiration to all who came to work at the News-Press, including the young high school and college interns and part-time workers. When word of his passing was circulated to current and former News-Press folks last weekend, it was poignant that among the first and most heartfelt condolences came back from those who were college students when they shared the small News-Press office with him.
We found ourselves saying most often about “Blackie,” with the highest degree of appreciation and admiration, simply, “They don’t make ’em like that anymore!” We all loved him very much.