Renee Nielsen Hawkes of North Logan was named the 2016 Utah Mother of the Year. She represented the mothers of Utah at the National Convention of the American Mothers in Washington, D.C. along with Mothers of the Year from the other states.
Renee is a devoted mother and grandmother, plus a dedicated kindergarten teacher for 23 years in the Cache County School District. She received the “Hats Off Award” for Outstanding Teaching in 2007, Teacher of the Year in 2009, served on the Cache District’s Math Committee, and taught other educators in Utah through the Elementary Core Academy. Mrs. Hawkes believes education is important. She said, “I believe that education is vital and unlocks the door to children’s potential and allows them to become a powerful force for good in the world.”
She was married to the late J. Bryant Neilsen, who was killed in a pedestrian accident in 1992, leaving her with two sons. She was married to Chad Hawkes, father of six sons, from 2001 to 2008, and they were blessed with a daughter. She has three granddaughters.
In her biography she shared: “Being widowed at age 30 with two young sons was devastating. The exemplary life of my late husband became the North Star in our lives. My purpose became raising my children to carry on his legacy. Motherhood gave life meaning and provided me the courage to press forward through the adversity we faced. Being the only parent and their primary example gave me the motivation to be honorable in my responsibilities.”
Her son Stephen wrote: “…she is such a remarkable woman and mother despite having gone through some of the greatest hardships life has to offer. She has experienced the pain of growing up in a deeply troubled home, the struggles of poverty, and the pain of rejection and unfair judgment. She watched her entire life crumble beneath her feet when my father was killed and was left to face this new horrifying reality while raising two young boys. She gave everything she had to the challenge of being the wife and stepmother to a recently widowed father and his 6 grieving sons when she remarried, only to see that after seven years, her best efforts could not preserve the union. She had to watch her youngest son struggle with addiction for years that nearly cost him his life, and just this year she had to watch her oldest son be deployed to one of the most dangerous parts of the world in a Special Forces detachment to combat the evils that terrorism brings to all parts of the modern world. Yet through it all, she has picked up the pieces, moved on and built something new so that her life can be forever filled with the love, laughter and joy that makes it worth living. And through it all she never lost her faith and hope, nor did she compromise her principles.”
Each nominee must share their philosophy on parenting. Part of Renee’s philosophy is, “I believe that if you treat children as they can become, they will achieve their full potential. Children thrive in a positive environment that fosters high expectations and provides positive reinforcement. Effective communication is vital….I believe a mother should be at the crossroads of her children’s lives. This includes being there at all significant events, from performances to family dinnertime.”