My father went to be with the LORD at 4:15 p.m., January 2, 2022, with his lovely daughter Amy at his side, and this third son, praying for him.
I wrote the below account, some months ago. As a journalist, one always has the obituary ready to go for famous, but ill people. My Dad wasn’t famous. But his time came, just as ours will. He was 90 years old. I have yet to fathom the hole he has left in our hearts.
I love this photo of my Dad. So-much-so, that I’ve shared it with very few people. When we celebrated his 90th birthday, March 29, 2021, the family asked for photos of Dad. I had a lot. I shared a lot. But not this photo. This one is mine. I only share it now because the gravity of the moment.
Dad had been sick for more than two years with a lung condition that usually takes it victims quickly. But my Dad has been blessed with many years. Plus, he is stubborn.
Why do I love this photo? You might think it odd. It doesn’t show him with that Gene C. Hammons smile that he was known for. It is not a picture taken of him in his youth. It was not a photo taken of him at the height of his career, but a photo taken of him when the disease he had begun to really take hold of him. By this point, he was feeble.
I’m quite certain he would not like to ever think of himself as feeble, but he was.
Just look at that glorious picture. It’s not a picture of an old, feeble man. It’s a picture of a man who truly lived life. Every wrinkle on his face is part of his life. Every sun spot tells the story. The baldness, the weak beard, the weak eyes, all tell the story of the man who lived 90-plus years through the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, the Iraqi wars, and the war in Afghanistan.
Let us reflect upon just the presidents he has lived under. He was born during the Administration of Herbert Hoover. Most people today, have never heard of Herbert Hoover. Yes, there was a president named Herbert.
He lived through the FDR, Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy Administrations, despising Kennedy so-much-so for his liberal policies, that he would not walk across his office in downtown Houston to look out the window and see the doomed president who would be shot a few days later in Dallas.
He also survived through Johnson’s presidency, endured Nixon, vaguely remembers Ford’s, hailed Carter as the biggest idiot the country had ever seen, honored Reagan, and supported H.W. Bush, whom he played doubles tennis with at the University Club in the 1970s. There was also Clinton, W. Bush, Obama, Trump, and the current first-place leader in knocking Carter out of his top idiot spot.
He has lived during the administrations of 14 presidents, and the regime of one dictator. Not bad, considering most people live under the same regimes their entire lives.
Like most people born during the Great Depression, his family didn’t have much, and had to share a home with aunts and uncles. As I’ve written before, he actually had his bedroom out on the balcony of their home on Ball Street in Galveston. He shared the “room” with his older brother. He was also born in that house, which was quite common in those days.
While they didn’t have much, he said they always found a lot of fun things to do, like riding the trains with his grandfather (an engineer for the railroad. You can read about that here), and he and his brother would go fishing down at the beach. He said the biggest thing they every caught was a sea turtle, which he and his older brother Bill, took home and turned into soup.
The only thing I’ve ever heard him complain about from his childhood was the fact that since he was the second son, he always got the hand-me-down clothes from his brother. I think that is partly what drove him to go into business. He never wanted to wear hand-me-downs again. And he didn’t.
You could say my Dad was solidly conservative his entire life. Much of that was driven by his understanding of the economy and free markets. Shortly after he finished studying at the University of Houston, he went to work for Raucher Pierce stock brokers and married my mother in the mid 1950s. He started working his way up the ladder, and by the early 1970s, he was the vice president of their office in the Galleria in Houston, where the University Club was located. Life was good.
In 1968, we went from living in a small, three bedroom house on Richmond Avenue, to a spacious five-bedroom home out in the Spring Branch area. We needed the space. There were seven of us at this point, Mom, Dad, me, and my four brothers. (Both my parents loved me the most, I’m their favorite. Trust me.)
We also had a boat down in Galveston. My Dad loved boating, and given his Galveston upbringing, the coast was in his blood. So every other weekend, and sometimes more, we would load up the car and head for the boat at the Galveston Yacht Club. The weekend was spent fishing for piggies, crabbing, going to the beach, taking the boat out for more fishing, going into the gulf for deep-sea fishing, and during the summer, going on the West-We-Go’s with the United States Power Squadron down the Intercoastal Waterway, which runs from Boston, Ma., to Brownsville, Tx. No, we never went to Boston. We would pick up the armada of boats traveling west in Galveston, and head for Brownsville. We never made it all the way. That was never the goal.
The goal was to meet other boaters and the most fun was the rendezvous every night. We would come along side other boats that were anchored, tied up together, and it was like a big party. Sometimes we would stop at Matagorda Island, which is a closed island. That was an adventure as well. One night, in July, we stopped in Freeport for hamburgers at a local bar and grill and watched Neil Armstrong’s one small step.
My Dad loved every bit of it. He love being the captain of his own boat, meeting the people, catching a ton of fish and crabs, cooking it all up before it had time to go bad, cleaning up, watching the sunset, telling stories to well past dark 30, and then doing it all over again the next day.
Then the accident. Then my mother divorced him. Then struggles came. He lost his job. Raucher was run by blue-blood, upper crust Presbyterians, who were not going to keep a divorced man with 5 children, and an invalid ex-wife. Remember, this was the early 1970s when companies like Raucher thrived on the air of respectability.
He remarried rather quickly after that. He and Liz, my step-mother, worked hard to carve a niche in life together. He went to work for a small firm, and struggled. Then a larger firm and did well. Eventually he was hired by Manufacturer’s Hanover Trust in Dallas. He was living in Houston, so they flew him to work and back every day on Southwest Airlines.
Doing that for a number of years, he decided to start his own business in Brenham, TX, Creekside Investment Management. He would finish his 65 year career as his own boss, and quite successful at it.
He saw recessions in the economy, gas lines at the pump, high inflation rates, huge stock markets, a few crashes and a lot of success. He rode the railroad with his grandfather as a boy. He owned many boats, the captain of them all, and flew many planes, owning one. He flew from Brenham, Texas all the way to Virginia and back again. Then all they way to San Diego, Ca, in that single-engined Piper affectionally called 54Whiskey. He owned tractors, managed a small ranch with a small herd, started a new business and was successful.
He has friends from high school, friends from college, friends from the business world, and made new friends all the time. He could be the life of the party, and was, countless times.
He married three times, was divorced by one, buried another, and died with the third tending to him. He has six children, step-children, grand-children, and great-grandchildren. His entire legacy isn’t wrapped up in what he did, but in those children and grandchildren. WE all love him. We all called him Pops, the official name of the patriarch of the family.
This photo, captures every bit of his 90 years. He was a man who was blessed with with a full life and a legacy of children and grandchildren who miss him dearly.
All photos are copyright © Timothy J. Hammons 2022.