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Very soon after our first residents settled in Hawthorne in 1973, two sisters, Claire and Fern McCune, made a donation in memory of a recently deceased loved one. Similar gifts by others soon followed.

The Spiritual Life Committee recognized in early 1975 the need for a "memorial organization". The Chairman, Rev. Roland "Pop" Mernitz, a legally blind retired clergyman consulted with Carl Curtis, the Chairman of the Long Range Planning Committee on this matter.

A meeting was called, and on December 2, 1976 fourteen interested residents determined the first step was a "Study Committee" to develop procedures for handling memorial gifts. This committee was formed and first met on January 11, 1977. Their members and officers were:

Paul Newman - Chairman
Charles Griffiths - Vice-Chairman
Abby Lacy - Secretary
Merrills Dake - Treasurer

Carl Curtis 
Roland Mernitz 
James Stevens
Madalyn Horstman (Simms)

This committee held six meetings in three months. Legal counsel was obtained from Leesburg Attorney, Henry Pringle. The committee concluded that the organization should be uncomplicated. The establishment of a Fund as opposed to a Foundation was felt more suitable and less expensive.

Colonial-Penn Communities, the owner and developer of Hawthorne, requested that this organization be set up as an entirely separate entity, thus avoiding future legal issues. Attorney Pringle drew up a proposed draft of Articles of Incorporation. We would be a non-profit corporation "under the laws of the State of Florida" and known as "The Memorial Fund of Hawthorne at Leesburg, Inc." The document was sent to Tallahassee and on March 22, 1977, James Stevens reported we were accepted as a charitable organization. We were authorized to receive and disperse funds for the following purposes:

  1. To create and maintain memorials to residents or deceased residents of Hawthorne at Leesburg.

  2. To aid needy residents or former residents of Hawthorne of Leesburg.

  3. To support authorized charitable organizations.

  4. To cover minimal costs of administering the Fund.

The Corporation was to hold an annual meeting on the fourth Friday of January each year. All Hawthorne residents making a financial contribution to the Fund became members for two years.  The "Study Committee" managed the affairs of the Corporation until the first membership meeting in January 1978.


By-Laws, Guidelines

Charles Griffiths, with the cooperation of the Study Committee, prepared the by-laws for our Memorial Fund. This was a year-long project and the final product was approved at the January 1978 Annual Meeting.


The by-laws provided for nine directors. Louise Hutchison replaced Madolyn Horstman and John Blair was added as the ninth member. The term of office was set at two years. This was later changed to three years. In 1998 the term of office was amended to an indefinite period.  Also, the number of directors was increased to 14.


Over the years seventy-three persons have served as Director of the Memorial Fund. A complete listing of all residents who have served on the Board can be found by clicking on this link Board of Directors With Years Served.


The first Board of Directors felt the need for detailed guidelines and procedures, specifying the responsibilities of each officer and committee.  Board guidelines and Standing Rules were drawn up during the first year of operation (1978).  Changes have been made over the years as the addition of computerized records and more efficient ways to perform were established. The small non-profit charitable cooperation was set up in 1978 in the most professional way to assure proper handling of funds and prevent any misuse of monies.


In 1992 our organization was restructured and designated as a not-for-profit charitable corporation. With this change we have avoided any question by the Internal Revenue Service as to tax exemption privileges by those who donate to our fund. Because we use basically 100% of our monies for improvements within our community, we are not entitled to a tax exemption from the federal government.

By-Laws, Guidelines, Standing Rules

Gifts Given to the Community

Gifts to Community

The first contributions received by the Memorial Fund were used to purchase a Resussi-Annie and film on C.P.R. training (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). That was in April 1978. In the next twelve months, Hawthorne security personnel trained seven classes of twenty persons each in CPR. Of course, that was before the age of defibrillators. We have come a long way!

Another early expenditure was the Memorial Fountain to honor all deceased residents. The concept was excellent but a number of problems developed. The pump was too small and the layout insufficient. Amos Henley, Colonial-Penn General Manager came to the rescue with the needed funds. Major design changes improved the appearance and function of the fountain. As we composed this updated history of the Memorial Fund, a revitalization of this fountain located at the entrance to our community was being planned. That project was completed in 2011 under the guidance of Pete Peterson.

The Memorial Fund donated the money for the two automatic doors in the Clubhouse. The first was to assist our handicapped with access to the building. The second, installed in 2000, was to assist our maintenance personnel with moving tables and chairs between the storage area and the Clubhouse.

For a list the items furnished to Hawthorne by the Memorial Fund, see Expenditures 1976 - 1996

or Expenditures 1997 - Present. The policy of our organization is to use the donations for the betterment of our community. We maintain the Garden of Memories and annually donate between $2,000 and $2,500 to HRCA toward the flower displays at the entrance to Hawthorne.

In 1982, our Memorial Fund established a Scholarship Fund at Lake Sumter Community College in the name of our community. With additional donations, this fund has grown to a current principal of $33,142. Scholarships are awarded annually to nursing students at LSCC. The fund will allow for over $3,000 in awards each year.

As we look toward the future, the Memorial Board is exploring various enhancements to our facilities and the development of the Hawthorne common grounds in the area west of the Palatlakaha River. We hope to continue to help fund the projects that improve the quality of Hawthorne living.

Flowers Memorial Fund.jpg

Memorial Fountain

Memorial Flowers

Our Memorial Books
How Can I Help?

At the very heart of our organization is the creation of memorials to those who have resided in Hawthorne and have died. We maintain large binders to record those who make donations in memory of the deceased. Each page has the name of the deceased shown with calligraphic lettering, giving the date of birth and death and on the reverse side the names of donors.

Over the years we have added binders as needed. They are available for examination in the Hawthorne Historical Museum/Conference Room in the Dan Gorden Hall. Since 1973 we have recorded approximately 2,000 deaths of residents and former residents of Hawthorne. A cursory review of our Memorial Books reveals approximately 1,682 persons have been memorialized. This represents over 70% of those who have died. Beginning in 2012, all of these records were computerized as well, to provide a lasting memory of those who have been remembered.  A digital copy of these records is updated quarterly and is kept in the Conference Room of Dan Gorden Hall and is available for residents to use.

The Memorial Fund makes possible a pleasant method to honor those friends and neighbors who die. You may simply place your donation to the Memorial Fund in the envelope and card provided in the Clubhouse. You receive an acknowledgement of your donation. The next of kin is notified of your thoughtfulness. Your name as a donor appears on the page of the deceased in the Memorial Book, and the money is used to benefit Hawthorne. A record of your contribution will also be computerized and added to our website for others to see. For a listing of all of those deceased who are listed in the Memorial Books click on this link.

There are several ways you may help the Memorial Fund.  You may volunteer your time by assisting with the cleanup of the gardens.  We are always putting out a call for folks like you to spend one to two hours every 6 to 8 weeks or so to rake, prune, trim and weed at the gardens.  Just watch for the call in the bulletin, on the drum or click Gardeners Wanted.

If physical exercise is not for you, we can always use financial contributions which will enable us to continue our good works around the community.  You may click on Gifts to the Community to see where we have helped Hawthorne in the past.

Another way to contribute is to the Perpetual Care Fund.  This Fund is solely for the purpose of maintaining the Memorial Gardens.  You may click on The Perpetual Care Fund for more information.

Where can I find the forms to make a contribution to either Fund?  In the Dan Gorden Hall just to the right of the hallway leading to the restrooms opposite the Program Office, or you can click on Perpetual Care Donation Form to donate to the Perpetual Care Fund or click on In Memoriam Donation Form for donating a memorial gift in someone's memory.

Thank you for your interest in contributing to our efforts.

Our Memorial Books

How Can I Help?

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