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by Terri Hogan
Senior Staff Writer
It has been a difficult two years for the Hawvermale siblings of Sandy Spring, who tragically lost their mother in what police have called a “suspicious death.”
While still searching for answers, the four are trying to carry on the legacy of a woman who meant so much to them and so many others.
The siblings — Dan, Duncan, Bridget and Jack — reached out to The Greater Olney News to tell the sad and frustrating story of life in the years their mom, Andrea Hawvermale, has been gone.
They want to know the circumstances surrounding her death, but are resolved to the fact that they may never know.
“There is a very small chance there will be a resolution in this case,” Dan Hawvermale said. “Even if there was a resolution, there would still be so many unanswered questions.”
The sadness begins
On June 17, 2017, at approximately 8:30 a.m., the 911 Emergency Communications Center received a call for a vehicle fire at a house in the 1300 block of Excaliber Lane in Sandy Spring.
Fire and Rescue personnel and police responded to the scene and found Andrea Hawvermale, 56, dead in the vehicle.
Montgomery County Police Department spokesman Capt. Tom Jordan said the case remains an open investigation.
He said the investigation has involved several agencies, including the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office, Montgomery County Fire Marshal’s Office, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“The investigation has been comprehensive, and investigators and prosecutors continue to work the case actively,” Jordan said.
Police have said the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore conducted an autopsy and ruled that Hawvermale’s death was caused by smoke inhalation and thermal injuries. The manner of her death is pending.
Investigators determined that a non-accidental incendiary fire was the cause of the vehicle fire.
The brothers and sister say investigators have told them that they are treating the death as a homicide.
They say they are confident it was not an accident.
“There is no chance it was accident,” Duncan Hawvermale said. “She was found in the trunk of the car burned alive.”
The siblings say they have cooperated with police since the beginning, but have been frustrated by what they feel is a lack of communication among the agencies involved.
“We feel like things could have been handled better and that the agencies weren’t communicating with each other,” Dan Hawvermale said.
Bridget Hawvermale said that because she and her brothers are hard-working people, they have a high level of expectation.
“When we say we are going to do something, we get it done,” she said. “That’s not happening and there doesn’t seem to be any consequences. We feel totally helpless.”
Duncan agreed, saying there is no place to turn.
But all four agree their frustration is a result of the process, not the people.
“We believe those working on this case are good people,” Duncan said. “We know and understand it is a difficult case.”
Jordan said investigators have endeavored to communicate with the children through in-person meetings and regular telephone contact.
“We would encourage the children to reach out directly, if they have any questions, to either the Montgomery County Police Department or the State’s Attorney’s Office,” he said.
Jordan said he could not make a conjecture as to whether he thinks the case will be solved.
“As with all our cases, we work diligently to uncover all the facts in order to make the most comprehensive determinations,” he said. “It is our end goal to solve all cases and that goal has not changed.”
Life goes on
The Hawvermale siblings are trying to adjust to a new normal, and say they are grateful to have each other.
“We have always been close, but this has brought us even closer,” Bridget said.
Each is dealing with grief in a different way.
“It’s hard to enjoy this wonderful woman’s life,” Duncan said. “I think of mom’s legacy, and then I think of everything at hand over the past two years. No one deserves to be burned alive in the trunk. It is sad that I can’t think of the good times without thinking of the bad.”
Dan agreed, and said the good and the bad are deeply intertwined, so it is easier just to block out memories.
“It’s too detrimental,” he said.
Unlike her brothers, Bridget said she has been able to separate things a little better.
“I do so much to honor her legacy, like wearing her clothes and jewelry,” she said. “Remembering her is very important to me. Some of it is hard to think about, but I want to honor her.”
The four of them say they will continue to do things together as a way to honor their mother.
On Mother’s Day, they went on a hike together and plan to make that a yearly tradition. They already have plans for a ski trip and holiday gatherings.
The siblings said many people relied on their mother for many things. In addition to caring for her children, she often cared for her parents who lived 30 minutes away. She had many friends who also relied on her.
Andrea Hawvermale had lost a sister and brother at a young age and often spoke of the importance of purposeful living and carrying on.
“Her friends all say she chose joy and that is how we feel,” Bridget said.
They remember Andrea for her many passions, including cooking, gardening, sports and Maryland. And pineapples.
Her legacy lives on through her children.
They say food has always been a big part of their family and they all love to cook. Bridget created a cookbook of her mom’s favorite recipes.
Andrea loved the state of Maryland and sports. She was an avid fan of James Hubert Blake High School athletics and all sports at the University of Maryland. They said she could spend an entire day in College Park, going from one sporting event to the next.
As for the pineapple, it is recognized as a traditional expression of “welcome” and the siblings said their mom had pineapple decorations throughout their house — adorning candlesticks, a door knocker and even the sugar bowl.
They now appreciate the significance of the pineapples, recalling fond memories of their mother’s love for to cooking, hosting and entertaining.
“One way to for us to embody her and her pineapples is by hosting, making food and gathering people together,” said Jack, who proudly showed off the tattoo on his leg of a pineapple growing out of a terrapin.
Andrea also loved gardening, and Dan, Bridget and Jack say they, too, enjoy gardening and caring for plants.
Despite the horrific tragedy they have endured, the Hawvermale brothers and sister are moving on with their lives, as yet another way to honor their mother.
Dan, 29, lives in Austin, Texas, and working as a sales director for a software company.
“I travel all over the country for work and all over the world for fun,” he said.
He recently got a French bulldog puppy.
Duncan, 28, recently moved to Austin. He has always worked in the catering business but is looking forward to a new career in technology sales.
Bridget, 26, has been happy married for almost two years. She lives in Frederick and works as an engineer for a medical device company.
Jack, 24, got married last month and moved to Fort Collins, Colo., where his bride attends veterinary school. He just completed a master’s degree in nursing and passed his board exam.
Andrea often shared the poem “Fairy Tales,” by Chester Swor, with friends who had lost loved ones. Her four children say the poem has become especially meaningful to them.
It reads, in part:
Brush against the walls of my life
And stay long enough for us to know each other
Even though we’ll have to part sometime
And we both know
The longer you stay
The more I’ll want you when you are gone.
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