Wednesday, February 11, 2015


Several years ago I provided you some facts about Hawkeye, the black Labrador friend of Petty Officer Jon Tumilson laying on the floor near the coffin of his owner.  It was a picture worth more than money and fame could ever offer.  It was the "ultimate gift" one friend gives another, regardless if one of those happened to be four-legged.

Lisa Pembelton, Tumilson's sister, shot the photograph which moved around the entire world.  Petty Officer Tumilson and 29 other Seals and Afghani Nationals were killed when their Chinook helicopter was shot down on August 11, 2011.

The bond between Hawkeye and his faithful buddy, Jon, was one of great affection and love.  So much so, that in the summer of 2013, Tumilson and Hawkeye were bronzed in a statue with the two of them running through the prairies of the Rockford Fossil and Prairie Park.  "Thank you to the board for allowing us such a beautiful place for Jon and Hawkeye to run forever", said Tumilson's brother-in-law Scott McMeekan.  The statue was made by Jeff Adams of In Bronze in Mt. Morris, Illinois.

"I can't tell you what an honor it was to be entrusted with the image of Jon", said Adams.  He said he spent six to eight months trying to "breath life" into a man he never knew.  The Tumilson family sent photos and measurements such as shoe size and Adams read Navy SEAL books, but it was the stories of Tumilson that inspired him.  "Here on this extraordinary hilltop we dedicate this statue to the memory and intensity Jon brought to life", Adams said.

There have been several questions concerning the real-life Hawkeye's whereabouts since the funeral in 2011.  Here is what we know:    

"Navy SEAL Jon Tumilson's longtime friend Scott Nichols and his family are Hawkeye's new owners, confirmed Carol Darby, a public affairs officer from Fort Bragg supporting the Tumilson family.  "Scott is Hawkeye's new owner and that is according to Jon's wishes," Darby told "He's very happy. He's with a family that he has known for a long time and that has loved him for a long time." The Nichols family cared for Hawkeye when Tumilson was away on duty. Darby said that Hawkeye has gained a human family and a dog family, including two or three other Labradors owned by the Nichols. 

Kathy (left) mother of Jon hugs a family member at dedication for son Jon
Yesterday I received some news that was totally unexpected.  Kathy Tumilson, Jon's mother passed away from cancer.....the one who was a rock within the family....the lady who took three total strangers (myself, and two members of Project 52, Bill Clark and Dustin Blythe) throughout her house showing us artifacts of Jon's life when we planted a tree in his honor.....a pillar in the Rockford community for sure, who shared with me stories of Hawkeye that few knew.  It's with her passing that I wanted to share some "other" sides of the Hawkeye story.

As I mentioned earlier, Hawkeye moved to Texas.  And he has lived a good life....albeit a guarded one.  Not too long after arriving in the south, his new owners took him into the vet to have some work done.  Apparently there were some individuals who caught wind of the celebrity in town and wished the dog to be theirs. They pranked the veterinarians office with words that the owners had something come up and they wouldn't be able to pick up Hawkeye....and they would be doing the errand for them.  Sensing something was fishy, the vet's office called Hawkeye's new family and made an inquiry into the truth.  As Kathy would relate to me, "when the Nichols found this out, they were furious".  Imagine someone trying to steal a dog that wasn't yours and had so much sentimental value". 

Kathy also relayed other calls and letters and emails she received after Hawkeye became world famous.  "One caller said he was a disabled vet and he was entitled to Hawkeye", she said.  "Others were down right demanding they should be the new rightful owners".   For Kathy and the Nichols family it was hard to fathom that people were so callous in their thinking.   For some time, it caused the Nichols to be extra special cautious in their dealings and who came around their home.  Time has healed some of those thoughts and concerns, but not all of them.   And they might not ever leave.

As I reflect today on Kathy's passing, knowing the Tumilson family, helping plant a tree in the family's back yard and having an insight into the keen canine known as Hawkeye....I am somewhat downtrodden in knowing Mrs. Tumilson is gone.  But, as my wife Joanne offered, "she's with her son now in Heaven.  How bad can that be?  And in time...Hawkeye will join them". 

And that, as they say, will be the rest of the story



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