Widow, friends of motorcycle crash victim urge caution on roads

OLIVE BRANCH, MS (WMC) - A Mid-South family is making an impassioned plea to drivers after a local veteran and father was killed on the road.

While riding his motorcycle on his way to work Monday, Joel 'Poncho' Hawkins was hit by a car near the intersection of Craft Road and Highway 78. Hawkins held on for four days at Regional Medical Center before he died.

"Please watch out for motorcyclists, that's all I can say," Hawkins' wife, Bonnie Hawkins, said. "People need to be aware."

The crash happened about a mile from Hawkins' home when a driver pulled into the intersection. Bonnie Hawkins said when she got the call, she was able to make it to the scene in less than three minutes.

"He just said my name over and over again, and he said he was sorry," Hawkins said. "You know it wasn't his fault."

Joel and Bonnie had been married for almost 30 years. Joel was a father of five, three of whom he adopted.

Hawkins said her husband was a fierce advocate for motorcycle awareness and rode with a local biker club.

"I am, myself, new to the Lawful Sons," biker James 'Juke' McNally said. "When I first met him, he had a smile that lit up the room."

Bonnie Hawkins added that her husband spent his life giving back. He was a military veteran and previously worked as a first responder in New York.

In the Mid-South, he served as a technician in the emergency department at St. Francis Hospital.

Hawkins' fellow bikers are planning a vigil.

"Today, I'm wearing my safety orange," McNally said. "There is a benefit ride scheduled for him on the 25th at Bumpus Harley Davidson."

Friends and family said the best way to honor Joel is to keep pushing for his passion.

"Keep your eyes open, wait that extra second," McNally explained. "Look both ways. Be aware that we're out there."

The family has set up a memorial fund online. If you would like to donate, click here.

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