• Gina Rullo

Dawn Baldwin’s death has me feeling out of step


Dawn Baldwin at a competition in 2015. (Courtesy Photo)

Dawn Baldwin’s death earlier this month left me in shock. And you would think after the past two years, that feeling would not be possible.


Dawn was my friend and a friend of this newspaper’s for 25 years.


The popular dance studio owner and dedicated community volunteer had texted me in March to let me know she was not feeling well but was “doing OK.”


Less than a month later, the owner of Dance Magic was gone. And a hole opened.


Dawn was a part of The Gazette and my life in Hammonton from the beginning.


In the first years of the newspaper, I went to Kelli’s Corner to watch parents line up for tickets to Dance Magic’s June recital. I mean, they would camp out, for tickets.


It was cool. It was odd. It was so Hammonton.


I then went to the recitals to take pictures.


And there were times when Dawn was on stage that I couldn’t see the age difference between her and some of her students.


Her bright blonde head and wide smile melded with the dancers. Maybe her steps were a little cleaner and her posing was a little sharper.


Her love for her dancers was evident. She pushed them to try new moves and to do their best in support of each other.


As someone who has two left feet, I was always amazed by her performances.


Dance Magic dancers at the June recital in 2018. (Courtesy Photo)

I also knew Dawn as a school board member. And we had some very hilarious lunches at Marcello’s with the late Dave Rizzotte (then a board member) and John Rodio (who later joined the board), Gabe Donio and others. We were by far the loudest and funniest table. I think Dave and Johnny enjoyed making Dawn laugh.


Both Dawn and I have a passion for Hammonton and for volunteerism. We crossed paths often. She was always ready to try a new way to bring the community together for a cause.


Dawn brought her creativity to groups like the Hammonton Cancer Foundation and MainStreet Hammonton. She also brought her dancers to help promote and support events like the Hammonton Education Foundation’s Taste of the Town.


Her husband Dwight was often with her at events and he was the perfect foil for her. He designed beautiful sets for her recitals and elevated the recitals look and feel. When Dwight looked at Dawn, his eyes would crinkle at the corners and soften.


In recent years, Dawn would talk about her sons and their wives. She was so happy her sons had each found the perfect partner. Dawn said she was happy to add to her family and talked about the daughters-in-law as if they were her own daughters. She talked about their wedding plans, dresses and family vacations. When her granddaughter Hayleigh was born, Dawn looked like she won the lottery. I have a picture from about 18 months ago and a message from Dawn saying she was going to see the baby. You could feel her excitement through the phone.


When she lost her parents in the last two years, the normally positive Dawn understandably showed true sadness.


She never stopped trying to help others. During the pandemic, she held class outside on her driveway. Dawn’s positivity would never let negativity keep her down.


I could really use a smile and a word of encouragement from Dawn. Looking through 25 years of photos and thinking of Dawn just makes me so sad.


I wonder what Dawn would say to help me and all of us who are missing her?



Gina Rullo is the editor-in-chief of The Hammonton Gazette and in 2021 won two awards for investigative journalism.