The Glen Rose woman who brought smiles to the faces of countless children in her volunteer role as “The Teddy Bear Lady” passed away Saturday morning.
Eva Hanke, 83, recently had been living in a Fort Worth nursing home — the Arlington Heights Health and Rehabilitation Center. She was moved into hospice care because of complications following hip surgery, according to her close friend, Jeanette Hawkins of Glen Rose, and her niece, Deidre Cockerham of Fort Worth.
A memorial is being planned, but the date and location have not been decided.
“She was very special,” Hawkins said.
For a period of five years, starting in 2011, Hanke gathered hundreds of stuffed Teddy bears and other stuffed animals that were distributed free of charge to children at the annual Glen Rose Christmas parade downtown.
A note Hawkins wrote by hand for the community and sent to the Glen Rose Reporter reads:
“Glen Rose has many great citizens; among them was Eva Hanke. Many of you knew her as the ‘Teddy Bear Lady.’ It wasn’t uncommon for her to collect 800 or more Teddy Bears to be passed on to the children after the Christmas parade. She was also instrumental in helping to create a Christmas spirit in Heritage Park.
“She was known for her ‘hugs’ all over town. She not only loved the citizens of Glen Rose, but they loved her back. Everywhere she went people would shout ‘Eva, Eva’ and then the hugs began. Her passing will be felt by many. She will be greatly missed. A memorial service is in the planning.”
Hanke turned over what is known as The Teddy Bear Express to Karen Anderson at Cornerstone Christian Fellowship Church last year because of health issues.
“She was my best friend,” Hawkins said. “People thought we were sisters because we went everywhere together. It was a difficult time (toward the end). She was in terrible pain. She had a broken hip, and had surgery.”
Hawkins said everyone knew Eva, especially after she started being more recognizable among the public as “The Teddy Bear Lady.”
“Everywhere we went, people would call out, ‘Eva, Eva,’ and (children) would run up and hug her.”
Cockerham, whose husband Michael Cockerham was Hanke’s nephew, said Hanke had moved to Glen Rose from the Dallas area in 2004.
“She was spunky and full of life. She loved her Dallas Cowboys,” Deidre Cockerham said. “Everybody loved her. She had lots of friends.”
Cockerham said that Hanke was an ordained minister, and used to perform weddings. She produced beauty pagents in Dallas. When the television series “Dallas” was in production, she was a stand-in on the set several times, Cockerham said.
Hanke became a member of the Rainbow Baptist Church in March 2013. She formerly attended Country Fellowship Church.