Friends of late ‘Honk for Hemp’ guy hold up familiar signs one last time, give away his hemp clothing

photo by: Kim Callahan/Journal-World

Erica Kellerman stands Sunday at the intersection of 11th and Massachusetts streets holding the signs that belonged to her neighbor and friend Thomas Trower, who recently died. Trower was a longtime cannabis activist, known as the "Honk for Hemp" guy, who was regularly seen downtown with the signs since the early 1990s. Kellerman was also giving away items of Trower's hemp wardrobe.

Friends of cannabis activist Thomas Trower gave the local icon a memorial he surely would have loved as they stood on the corner of 11th and Massachusetts streets and asked — one last time — for passing cars to “Honk for Hemp.”

Hundreds of drivers honked not just once, but repeatedly — once for the cannabis cause and many more as a clearly emotional tribute to Trower, who had stood at the downtown corner for more than three decades dressed head-to-toe in hemp asking passersby to support his cause: the legalization of not just hemp but of all cannabis plants.

Trower, 70, lived to see the legalization of hemp in Kansas but not marijuana, even though dozens of states have made the plant legal either for recreational or medicinal use. He died Aug. 9 at his Lawrence home.

In 2019 he said of the picketing he had been doing since 1990: “It’s a futile and symbolic gesture, but someone has to do it until it’s fully legal.”

photo by: Kim Callahan/Journal-World

Motorists honk during Sunday’s memorial for Thomas Trower, Lawrence’s “Honk for Hemp” guy, who died Aug. 9.

Sunday’s memorial was organized by Erica Kellerman, Trower’s eastern Lawrence neighbor and good friend.

“It’s been a hard tragedy,” Kellerman said of Trower’s passing. “The purpose of this memorial is to just keep the word alive.”

Kellerman’s sister, Ashley Foster, and Kellerman’s fiancé, Zachery Burris, and his brother, Joe Gorman, were also on hand Sunday to help raise Trower’s well-known signs one final time — “Honk for Hemp” and “Save Trees/Free Hemp” — and to give away his wardrobe of hemp clothing — all size medium, as Kellerman noted, except for an assortment of large hemp gloves.

photo by: Kim Callahan/Journal-World

Items of Thomas Trower’s hemp wardrobe were being given away Sunday by friends of the “Honk for Hemp” guy, who died on Aug. 9.

Passersby stopped at a table draped with Trower’s shirts, sweaters, vests and other items — all made from natural hemp. A basket contained dozens of woven hemp bracelets. All of the items were free to anyone who needed them or who just wanted a keepsake, Kellerman said.

As for the locally famous signs, Kellerman said they would be donated to Lawrence’s Cycle Works — a store that Kellerman said Trower “loved.” She said she hoped that they would someday find their way into a museum.

photo by: Kim Callahan/Journal-World

Erica Kellerman and others hold a memorial for Thomas Trower Sunday at 11th and Massachusetts streets. Trower, known as the “Honk for Hemp” guy, stood at the intersection on weekends for about three decades protesting for the legalization of cannabis.

photo by: Kim Callahan/Journal-World

Friends of Thomas Trower were giving away woven hemp bracelets Sunday as keepsakes for the “Honk for Hemp” guy, as well as all of Trower’s natural hemp clothing.

photo by: Kim Callahan/Journal-World

A group of motorcyclists paid their respects Sunday to Thomas Trower, Lawrence’s “Honk for Hemp” guy, who died on Aug. 9.


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