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One tough lady

Roberta Hawkins
By PHILLIPE AND JORGE  |  December 18, 2008

It was with extremely heavy hearts that Phillipe + Jorge heard of the death of an esteemed old pal and erstwhile colleague, Roberta Hawkins, on December 10. Roberta was director of the Alliance for Better Long-Term Care in Rhode Island. No one — NO ONE — did more for the elderly in Rhode Island and those who require long-term care. She was one tough lady who took crap from no one, least of those whose avarice and greed, not a rarity in the field of elderly and long-term assistance, was apparent.

She always struck P+J, in only the best of ways, as the Tugboat Annie of the health care industry: light years from being shy, able to shut people up with a hard look, but with a heart as big and as caring as you could find. We always looked forward to bumping into her at charity events, or more likely, up at the State House, where she had probably torn any number of legislators a new one on behalf of those she served, because we were always met with a laugh, a hug, and a kiss on the cheek. She was someone who you were proud to call a friend, and even prouder to know that she considered you one.

We join with the Other Paper in noting the wonderful quote by Roberta's longtime friend, Corinne Calise Russo, director of the Rhode Island Department of Elderly Affairs, who described Hawkins as "a voice for those who had no voice."

We will greatly miss Roberta, but those who will feel her absence the most will be those who need her help, and they remain legion. May someone succeed even coming close to filling the shoes that put on many miles working on behalf of her very needy friends.

Thanks for the memories, Roberta. They will always bring admiration and a smile.


Are we supposed to believe that all the bodies we see falling past state office windows haven't been pushed, but are merely folks who made the decision to leave to "spend more time with the family" or "pursue other interests"? Not bloody likely, say P+J.

We have the august General Assembly members who decided not to run for reelection this year on the hunch that their constituents might realize they were partially to blame for the current economic horror show. Or those, like deposed Senate president Joe Montalbano and Senate Finance Committee chair Steve Alves, who figured wrong that the great unwashed weren't smart enough to realize that they played a part in those woes.

But the sudden departures of Economic Development Corporation head Saul Kaplan and the even more stunning leave-taking of Supreme Court Chief Justice Frank Williams make us think that the idea of public service in the current climate is about as appealing a having a sucking chest wound. Either that, or perhaps we see the imprint of a well-shined brogan in the backs of both Kaplan and Williams, although regarding the latter, it may be the good judge's wingtip which was inserted in a certain governor's buttocks as he exited.

At any rate, at a time when the operative strategy of the legislature and of the governor's office appears to be avoiding any suggestion of a mea culpa for the recession, myopia and amnesia in decisions of future finding of any sort, and taking a butcher's knife to the state payroll that cuts out fat, but blindly eliminates decades of invaluable institutional memory, maybe a little stability might be a good idea.

Unfortunately, tossing people off the roof or making the political working environment intolerable are not exactly top choice responses to our ills.


We furiously ring the bad taste bell as we ask Johnny Mathis, to croon "When Sunny Gets Blue," one last time, in memory of Martha "Sunny" von Bulow.

Newport society has many legendary stories, from those of the Vanderbilts to Bernard and Doris, but none as dramatic as the suspicious death of Sunny, in which her her skin-crawling former husband and faux royal, Claus "von" Bulow, was charged and eventually acquitted. This led to Phillipe + Jorge being cited in the national media for our coverage, which used little tricks, like insisting on appending Claus's dubious claim of being a "von" Bulow to everyone involved in the circus trial, including his mistress, Alexandra von Isles, Judge Thomas von Needham, and Sunny's maid, Maria von Schrallhammer.

The coma into which Sunny von Bulow slipped into by whatever means ended 28 years later with her death, and remains part of Vo Dilun legend. Rest in peace, Sunny, which is more than we hope Claus can do.


According to a recent story in the South County Independent, students at South Kingstown high school claim the school administration, and at least one teacher, recently engaged in a bit of extra-curricular censorship, and the kids, to their credit, are not keeping quiet about it.

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  Topics: Phillipe And Jorge , Providence , Frank Williams , Saul Kaplan ,  More more >
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