Super Senior: Peter Hawks

Published: Sep. 29, 2022 at 5:54 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Eighty-four-year-old Peter Hawks is serious about having fun.

He rides his electric mountain bike down the Burlington Bike Path on his way to play in the dirt. “This is just a paved road -- which is kind of boring for a mountain bike,” Hawks said.

When Hawks was seven, his life went to hell. He had polio that put him in an iron lung, a device to help him breathe. When he recovered, Hawks sprang to life, not walking but running. He has never looked back. “I’ve been an all-time lifetime mediocre athlete and loved it, loved every moment of it,” he said.

But there have been challenges along the way. He lost his son, Ryan, at just 25. “The hole that Ryan left, not only for me but many, many other people, was a big black hole,” Hawks said.

Ryan was an extreme skier who in 2011 was performing a 40-foot jump in California. He landed on a rock and died a few days later. “Everybody wanted to be around Ryan because he just, -- not that he did anything -- just because he was there, he just had, in my mind, that magical aura,”

After he died, they discovered on his computer 14 principles for living including “Live every day all day,” “Never lose my adventuresome spirit,” and “Be the best friend I can be.”

“It was a private note, to Ryan,” Hawks said. The grieving father turned it into something positive. “One of my core values is, ‘What would Ryan do?’”

What he did was establish the Flyin Ryan Foundation, giving out grants to people like Ryan, who live life to its fullest. “He was always up for, you know, having fun,” Hawks said.

Friends and family of Ryan came together last week at the Rocky Ridge Country Club St. George for the 10th annual Flyin Ryan Golf Tournament. “I’m loving it, the vibes are so good. It’s a feel-good tournament,” Hawks said. The foundation took home 20 grand from the event. “We don’t define adventure, we let the passion define the adventure. So, it’s a very broad spectrum, not narrow.”

“So much about Ryan is just he was such an awesome person who loved to bring people together,” said Alicia Hawks, Ryan’s younger sister. “I think for my dad, Ryan’s spirit is still very much alive.”

“I try to do whatever it takes to earn his respect on a daily basis because he’s a current event, his spirit is absolutely part and parcel of who I am now.,” Hawks said.

A life cut short, but not forgotten.