I wanted to update this more often, and just when I start trying, life throws something at me to derail my efforts. Last Thursday I received an e-mail from my Uncle Dale, that just asked me to call him. I was pretty sure I knew what it was about, and I was right. My paternal grandfather had died that morning.
It wasn't much of a surprise - he was 94 years old and had already battled (and beat) cancer - but it still left me feeling down. I love my grandfather, and looked up to him. He was a good man. Not perfect, by any stretch, but good.
He taught me to be honest and to tell it like it is, without apology. He taught me to work hard and be the best at whatever I chose to do. He was constantly trying to put one over on me in the form of some jest or exaggeration, and would give me a sly wink when he was caught. He called me "Matthew Alouysis" for some reason I'll never know (Alouysis is an actual boy's name, but not a popular one).
Some of the things I remember best:
When I was 8 or so, all I wanted for my birthday was a pocket knife. My mother would not consent to buying me one. My grandfather took me shopping for one as my birthday present. I got a Schrade with three blades.
He had a croquet set in his back yard, and taught me to play when I was 9 or so. When I was 11, and visiting for 2 weeks, he invited the neighbor's daughter over to play croquet to try to set me up with her.
When I was twenty, I finally got the pleasure of joining him for a cigar and a Scotch on his back porch, something he did everyday. I had waited a long time to get to do that. I asked him not to tell my mother, because she didn't know that I drank or smoked cigars. He gave me hell for hiding my "vices" from my mother even though I was an adult. My (then) girlfriend (now wife) was sitting on the porch, wearing a sweater in August in Eastern Oregon and complaining she was too hot - she had not brought any short sleeve shirts. My grandfather, 80 years old, gave her a wink and told her, "You can take it off - I won't mind."
I plan to be like that if I reach 80.
I'm going to miss you, grampa.
The obituary my uncle wrote for him:
Lewis Norman Hamer
Dad left this world to rejoin his beloved wife Rosalie on Feb 21, 2008. Prior to her death in 1999, they had been married 67 years. He was a devoted husband and father, who led an adventurous life and made innumerable friends of all ages.
Dad was born on Feb 1, 1914 in Hoquiam, WA, to Annie Rowley and Roscoe Norman Hamer. Granddad was a carpenter and sawyer at a time when Grays Harbor was a major lumber shipping port, with 13 sawmills. Dad grew up in this booming pre-industrial-safety environment, carrying 5 paper routes in the morning before school, and playing on the log rafts and in the sawmills after school. One of their favorite entertainments was riding the drive belts that powered the machinery in the mill. As he later noted, it was a miracle he lived to grow up.
At the age of 15, he acquired a job driving one of the local cannery owners up and down the coast to inspect his canneries. At 17, he signed on as Able Seaman on a lumber freighter, the SS West Mahwah, which carried lumber and logs from the Pacific Northwest to and from the east coast of South America. At one point he saw 3 revolutions in 3 days. Another time, on the Amazon River, he had to dislodge a 30-foot Anaconda coming up the anchor chain.
After this voyage, he returned to Hoquiam and finished high school, then began his career as a truck and bus driver, machinist and fleet operator. In 1932, while apprenticing in a machine shop, he fell in love with, and married the boss’ daughter, Rosalie Revie. One of his first jobs after marriage was driving motor coach up the Olympic Peninsula from Grays Harbor. Later, until the early 1940s, he drove for Grays Harbor Stage Lines. In 1941, Mom and Dad and their children, Dixie and Clark, moved to South Bend, Wa, driving bus as well as driving freight truck for the canneries. The third child, Dale, was born that year. Dad then became a machinist for Harbor Plywood, and in 1949 they moved to Tacoma where he worked at Inter-City Auto Freight.
In 1951, Dad began his 27-year career with Weyerhaeuser in Longview, WA starting as Asst Master Mechanic, and working up to Maintenance and Transportation Superintendent, in charge of all repair shops, logging equipment and railroad operation. This was an exciting period in the logging industry, when railroad logging was being replaced by truck operation. During this period, he worked closely with tire manufacturers to develop new heavy-equipment tires, and designed and had built a remote-control steering trailer for extra-long loads.
After retiring from Weyerhaeuser, Dad took a job with Ford, as service manager for a truck dealership in Portland, OR. After Ford closed their heavy truck dealerships, he and Mom moved to Pendleton, OR to be branch manager for Diesel Service Unit. After his 65th birthday, he went to work for the competition, Woodpecker Truck. At the age of 70, he retired for the last time. Shortly thereafter, Mom had a severe stroke, that left her largely disabled. For the next 13 years, Dad provided her attentive, loving care, until she died in December 1999.
In his last 8 years, Dad lived alone in Pendleton, enjoying and being enjoyed by his many friends and neighbors.
Dad was preceded in death by his son Clark, who died in 1989. He is survived by his daughter, Dixie Haywood of Pendleton, SC, his son Dale Hamer, of Seattle WA, 9 grandchildren, 5 great-grandchildren and 1 great-great granddaugther.
The family has great appreciation to his neighbors Bea Herd, Harold and Carol Nelson, and the nuns at St Anthony Hospital.
Dad was cremated at his request. A memorial will be held at a later date.
7 months ago