Former K Shoes boss who learned the craft in Paris, dies aged 76

David Hawkes

David Hawkes

First published in News The Westmorland Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

A FORMER K Shoes chairman who spent 30 years with the company has died at the age of 76.

Warm tributes have been paid to David Hawkes, who joined Somervell Brothers, later K Shoes, as a graduate trainee in 1962 and saw the company into its 150th year as chairman.

Fondly remembered as a courteous man who loved Kendal and its people – as well as swimming, fell walking and skiing – Mr Hawkes worked tirelessly to protect Cumbrian jobs when cheaper imports put shoe-making under threat.

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“He made one feel very proud to work for K Shoes,” said fellow director Tim Lewis, who worked with Mr Hawkes for 28 years.

“He admired Kendalians for their loyalty, their directness, their sayings and their humour, even in trading times that were often difficult.”

Born in Northamptonshire in 1938, Mr Hawkes was an accomplished sportsman who swam for Great Britain while at Oxford University.

As a K Shoes trainee he spent time in Paris learning the craft of hand-made shoes, and by 1968 he was head of men’s manufacturing at Low Mills, working with ‘outstanding foremen’.

As managing director of K Shoes, a director of Clarks, and K Shoes chairman from 1987 to 1992, he was instrumental in many milestones, such as the first computerised sewing machine in 1980 and DESMA moulding machine, which revolutionised comfort.

“He set very high stand-ards for himself and his team,” recalled Mr Lewis. “He obtained very good results. Quality and stock control were in his DNA.

“He understood the need to control costs and stock levels throughout produc-tion in the unending battle that we faced throughout this time to fight off imports and protect jobs in the area.”

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While at K Shoes Mr Hawkes was a non-executive director of Kendal’s hospital, and on retirement he became its non-executive chairman.

He had two sons, Simon and the late Edward, with his first wife Emma. Latterly he lived in Kirkby Lonsdale with his second wife Sheila, and grew to know and love his step-daughter Kirsty.

He died peacefully at Kendal Care Home last week, and yesterday (Wed-nesday) a private cremation was followed by a gathering at the Sun Inn, Kirkby Lonsdale.

Donations may be made to the Alzheimer’s Society c/o Hayes and Parkinson, Kendal.

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