Prof Hawking, as well as Dr Blanford of fermilab, and Prof Lynn Conway of MSU were scientist and workers in science out there who encouraged directly or by example at a time when I was vilified in the media. (There have been many others in various fields from physics to psychology since then too.)
Hawking, stood above all others for those of us who were different in various ways. His life showed no matter how dark it may all feel at times to be so different that we all can still contribute. He lived a richer fuller life than so many so called "normal" people.
I live now in part because of a few small acts of kindness one of which came from his office. I am a physicist now because of such acts.
If there is a lesson for any who may read this in my story it is simply this.
Rest in peace Prof Hawking