Remembering Bill Hammaker
I never met Bill, but he and I had had a sort of pen-pal correspondence over the years. Bill lived in California, and sometime after I became editor back in 1996, he started sending me a note after almost every issue of the magazine. He’d comment on something I said in my column, chat about what was going on in his life, or just offer a word of encouragement.
(If you click on the letter above—just one of many I have from Bill—you can see it bigger. I’m not sure how well you can read it, but basically he wrote it in 1999 in response to a column I did about snorkeling in St. John on an Alumni Association trip.)
Bill had some connection to my hometown of Somerset, Pa., as well, so he and I also took pleasure in having that in common.
In my job, a lot of the readers I hear from are the ones who are upset about something that Penn State or the magazine has done. So to get a handwritten note from someone who just wants to say “Here’s what I liked in the latest issue” is pretty special.
Bill spent 23 years as director of the Ventura County YMCA but was equally well known as a longtime peace activist. Two years ago we profiled him in our Class Notes section around the time he turned 100.
The Ventura County newspaper noted his passing (he died June 17, just 12 days after his 102nd birthday) with an article and an editorial. Judging from the latter, I wasn’t the only person he corresponded with:
At 102, procrastination is not an option, so he never let an opportunity go by to make an encouraging call, visit with family and friends, write a letter to the editor or send a puzzle to a child. “He loved everybody,” said daughter Sue Hammaker of Camarillo.
Sweet guy. He’ll be missed.
Tina Hay, editor