In Memory of Stokely Hammons, October 25, 1969 – December 27, 2014

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Stoke and his motorcycle in 2003.

We sat on the back porch, smoking cigars and listened to Stoke tell us stories about being pulled over by the cops. Pops and I were all ears, especially since neither of us had ever ridden on a motorcycle at 170 mph, muchless being pulled over by the police. Apparently, Stoke had it down to a fine art and knew exactly what to do. If you are going 170 mph, take the first turn off the highway and sit in the woods for four hours. If you are going less, go ahead and pull over. It seemed to work for him because he kept his insurance rates at about $1,200 a year, as opposed to $5,000 a year. I hadn’t realized the insurance would cost that much.

This was Christmas day, 2014, just a few days ago. We were laughing and telling stories and joking and having a wonderful time. Neither Pops nor I knew it would be the last time we would see him alive. He was found by a friend on Saturday afternoon and we had the news within a couple of hours. Apparently, Stoke died from some medical event. That is what the coroner relayed to us. No suicide, no foul play.

Early Years

My first memory of Stoke was not actually seeing him, but what I did when I found out he was born. We got the news on the phone and I immediately went door-to-door telling everyone who would answer that I had a new baby brother. People kept asking me what his name was and I had no idea. And when we did find out what his name was, we were a bit perplexed. He was Stokely McCaga Hammons IV. Years later we would discover that there had never been a III, II, or a I. There had been several Stokely Hammons and McCaga Hammons but never a Stokely McCaga… well, so much for family trees.

When they brought him home, we loved him immediately. He had the brightest red hair anyone had ever seen. The red hair has a tendency to pop up in the family from time-to-time, just like it did with my son Joey. But we didn’t know that at the time. His hair would eventually fade to blond, but when he was younger, it was bright red.Stoke 007

The biggest event in his life would be the car accident that we would undergo a few months after his birth. While he wasn’t in the accident, this event would do more to shape him and make him who he was than anything else to follow. Not that our mother died, but the moment of that accident, he became motherless and eventually fatherless through the divorce of our parents. His real mother ended up being Anita and Bridget, two Mexican maids we had working for us at the time. After they left, several others would come and go, but for Stokely, due to the circumstances beyond his control, his parents were never really in charge of his life after that.

The sad part for me is that when I was in my teens, I felt like I had to assume the role of disciplinarian for Stoke. My mother never seemed to be concerned at all with teaching him right from wrong, or bringing any level of discipline at all. This too would have a profound affect on his life.

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School and Career

On top of all that, he was dyslexic. For those of us who grew up in the 1970s, there were no classes for dyslexic students. As Stoke once told me, “they stuck me in the class with the mentally retarded kids. Like I was going to learn anything in those classes.”

He did spend some time at Blinn College in Brenham, but after an advisor told him “college is probably not for you,” he gave up on that endeavor. So school was not his forte and he was never much of a reader. Because of this, he bounced around from job to job, and even bounced around from state to state.

One of his dreams was to surf in Hawaii. After learning the art in California, he did make it to Hawaii where he got the opportunity to surf. He told me of one such event, which may have taken place in California, where the wave he was riding crushed down to the bottom so hard and for so long that he actually got comfortable with it. He said it was the closest to death he had ever experienced, because he had to force himself to the surface again. It was a moment in his life where he had to make a choice: stay on the bottom, which was by far easier at the time, or struggle for the surface. He struggled for the surface.

His Struggles

I’m not sure, but it wouldn’t surprise me if some of the many struggles he faced, with depression and bouts of being bipolar, were actually what led to his death. The medicine that he had to take in order to be “normal” emotionally, really caused him to gain weight. The top picture was taken in 2003. But by last year, he was upwards of 260 lbs. A lot of that also had to do with his love for food, but I sensed a “why not” attitude towards all the food over the past couple of years.

Yet despite all these struggles, Stoke was doing really well professionally. He had finally found his calling in selling hearing aids. He learned the trade of being a salesmen in the auto industry, and he put those talents, and his tendency to care for people, together selling hearing aids. He tried to get me into the profession as well, and kept telling me, “just show them you care.” And he did care. He loved helping people and had hundreds of clients who knew they could come to him for help. He loved it.

If fact, he was so good at not only caring, but also selling hearing aids that we found out last week that his store was the number one store in the country and the company was going to send him to Italy for vacation in the spring. He was on top of the world.

I also felt that he was coming back to the LORD. Yes, during those times of struggles he had trusted Christ at one point. His faith wasn’t very strong, but I believe there was indeed saving faith. On Christmas day he showed me the Bible I bought him back in 1995. He said, “I still have it!” And he did.

He was attending several church homes trying to find the right one. He had bought himself a home in League City and things were finally going well for him. He had even patched up some broken relationships with members of the family. Things were indeed well.

But man knows not his own time, even when we are believers. The LORD called him home this past Saturday in a way that showed it was all God’s hand. There was nothing mysterious about it. Stoke just died in his kitchen from some medical event, where a close friend found him a short time later. Joe, his friend, is an EMT, so had there been an opportunity to revive him, he would have. There was nothing Joe could do because it was Stoke’s time.

The LORD blessed us with that wacky humor, boisterous laugh, and sense of adventure for only so long and then called him home. Gone is the younger brother, the surfer, the cyclist, the Texans fan, the hearing-aid salesman of the year. He is no longer any of those things. All that is left of Stoke is the one redeemed in Christ. He is now just the saint, as are all those who believer in Christ and are saved.

There is no way that I can really capture his life in a short-blog piece. But I don’t need to. Just the fact that he was “in Christ” is all that matters.

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23 thoughts on “In Memory of Stokely Hammons, October 25, 1969 – December 27, 2014

  1. Mikki Miller Stovall

    This is an AWESOME tribute to Stokely. Well written and I enjoyed reading every word. I hadn’t seen Stokely in years. He and my brother Dusty were very close at one time. He always made me laugh. I will keep all his family and friends in my prayers at this difficult time. Remember, WHEN WE ALL GET TO HEAVEN, WHAT A DAY OF REJOICING IT WILL BE!!

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  2. Phyllis

    What a wonderful read! Loved this & gave me some insight on who he was. I love Stokely even though he could make me so mad sometimes! He was a wonderful friend to so many & a very best friend to my brother, Scott Jackson! Such a great loss very many! May God rain upon us the glory you gave Him when your entered His Kingdom! Much love to you, Stokester!

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  3. Timothy, well done I so miss this guy. Everyday seems more difficut to bear. Yet each day we are presented with wonderfu memories, gifts such as this blog that capture his true essence. He was a larger than life character. He did care about others, sometimes more than himself. His memory will live on in each of us. BOTC.

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  4. My heart is filled with emotions right now, but how wonder it was to read this and what comfort it brought. Stoke was the only little brother I’ve ever had, and still one of the funniest person’s I’ve ever met. I hadn’t seen him since 2004, but I remember every story so vividly! My thoughts and prayers to your family . . . your brother will be dearly missed!

    Thank you so much for this!

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  5. Curtis

    Thank you Tim for sharing about this tribute to Stokely, he touched more lives than he could have ever imagined through his work with Miracle Ear. He will be missed!

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  6. David Wright

    The first time I heard the name Stokley Hammons was from my mother who was a teacher at Junior High West. She came home and told me to stay away from this kid because he was wild and crazy. Naturally I wanted to draw my own conclusions about Stoke and found him to be very interesting. The saying goes he marched to the beat of a different drummer, well Stokley Hammons had his own set of drums and you always knew that some good and fun times were in store when he was around. I wasn’t fortunate to be able to hang out with him very much but he always made a point to say hi and ask how I was doing every time I saw him. You and your free spirit will always be missed. RIP Stokely Hammons, I know Heaven is that much more fun now that you’re there…

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  7. Stephanie Garcia Baker

    Blessed are the ones that believe, that the family &friends Of those who have gone before us have peace knowing that their loved one knew Christ Our Lord.

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  8. Lea Lambing

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us Tim. My prayers are with you and your family. I deeply regret that I had not reached out to my friend in a few years but I know that no matter how long we had not spoke, we would always pick up right where we left off. I have so many wonderful memories of Stoke. I experienced my very first earthquake after my move to California with Stokely right by my side. As the earthquake hit he was upstairs at my home and I can still see him running down the stairs yelling “Wooo Hooo…Surfs Up Dude” as the house was rocking back and forth. Of course I was terrified but he quickly turned my fear into ROFL. LOL I remember getting him on the dance floor at Del Mar Beach, CA and boy he could NOT dance but do you think he gave a damn? Hell noooo… he was cutting it up out there and had me laughing till it hurt as always. There are so many great times. I honestly do not have 1 single bad incident with him. He always brought laughter and fun into my life. I will miss you buddy. Please put in a good word for me up there because you of all people will know I need it. I love ya!

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  9. Bruce Love

    Tim, that is a touching tribute. I learned a lot from your post. I don’t think I have seen any comments on BMX bikes. I recall Stokely beating me, most if not all times, we ever raced behind the mall in Lufkin. He was just a heck of a person and personality. I never had a bad moment with him. The last time he and I spoke was when he was working at Loving Lincoln. I walked in, and we picked up right where we last left off. Very few people have that gift, and you are seeing the notes and tributes that document what an exceptional experience people had when they were with him. He enriched so many lives. Life is so fragile, and brothers are so very special.

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  10. Tammie Bryant

    Thank you for the memories of Stokely,
    I have often thought of him throughout years since high school.

    Praying,
    Tammie

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  11. Kim

    I knew Stokely briefly in the late 1990’s. I thought he was a neat guy and it was nice to meet him, especially when I found out he was John’s brother. I knew John through Cindy and thought a lot of him. These words written about him are so heartfelt and full of emotion. May God bless your family during this difficult time.

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  12. Shannon

    I did not know him well but remember him from school. I hope that all who reads this beautiful tribute will take a small piece of Stokely with them and learn to live in the moment and never forget that we are not promised tomorrow. I lost my brother 3 years ago to a heart attack and didn’t have the chance to tell him how much I loved him. Please take the time to tell your loved ones how you feel. I am praying for you and your family. He is now an angel guarding over your family. R.I.P. Stokely you will never be forgotten.💗

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  13. Jamie Acosta

    Stokes…..nuff said. He needed work once and I was remodeling birch Kelleys house. I put him to work and let me tell you I never laughed as hard to this day listening to his BS. Gonna miss ya

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  14. Pingback: Could’ve, Should’ve, Would’ve | Timothy J. Hammons

  15. oved gonzalez

    My best friend for about the last 7 years . I lived 2 streets down from him in Pasadena,. We watched every Texans game together for years. He always said “don’t miss church, I don’t want Texans losing cause of you”. But he always had a steak for me. He taught me how to cook. We played Golden tee golf every night for years. He was very competitive and hated losing at anything. Me and him got in to many fist fights and screaming matches almost every night. No matter he was my true friend. I had a pitbill that had a tumor in its stomach and it was very costly for surgery, he paid for my dogs operation, more than half the bill No questions asked. He also looked out for my mother in law with some new hearing aids for free. She took it hard when she heard about Stoke. He also hooked up his neighbor , who was Mexican, he said ” I need you to translate, cause I want this guy to hear. “He always did things like this.He is and always was a real true friend . I miss him everyday, but I’m glad to have known him. I’ll see you when I get there buddy!

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