On Aug. 10, Fayette County lost Bob Hammond, a man who spent his life making the community a better place to live. Hammond passed away a week before his 75th birthday.
When asked to share some thoughts on Hammond, his friend and Washington C.H. City Council member, Steve Jennings, asked, “Am I up to this task? I mean, he was quite an individual.” This sentiment was shared by many who spoke of Hammond. To convey the essence of a man they knew and loved for decades in the course of a few minutes of conversation seemed a daunting task. Still, in speaking with them, a picture of Hammond began to take form.
He was a dedicated member of the community, he loved practicing law and he also loved the land, he was a family man with two children and three grandchildren, and had a happy marriage of 49 years to Nancy Hammond, longtime Fayette County Juvenile-Probate Court Judge.
He also seems to have been involved in just about every effort to improve the community over the course of several decades.
For example, he single-handedly brought soccer to Fayette County. His wife said, “He enrolled the people and got the fields and recruited referees.” As a result of his work, all of the local schools and the YMCA now offer soccer.
Hammond also contributed to the community through charitable giving.
He served on the board of directors at Merchants National Bank, which his sister, Debbie Weade, said “he really enjoyed.” The president of Merchants National Bank, Jim Evans, wrote that “Bob was an excellent board member. He was gifted with a great deal of intelligence and understood the legal issues involved with each type of decision the board faced.”
It was Hammond’s personal attributes, though, that he will be most remembered for at Merchants National. Evans wrote that several employees had commented on “how kind and supportive he was to our staff.” Evans also recalled that Hammond “was known for delivering poinsettias and oranges to each of our offices as Christmas time.” Evans expressed condolences to Hammond’s family and said he “will be missed but remembered for years to come.”
Professionally, Hammond practiced law for years and “was a great mentor and wealth of knowledge in terms of the legal community,” according to his nephew, Jess Weade, who is now the Fayette County Prosecutor. Weade added that Hammond “was universally respected amongst other attorneys…for his knowledge, for his character, and just for the way he went about doing all his business.”
Outside of Weade’s office on Market Street is a sign that reads, “Hammond & Weade.” Weade said he plans to keep the Hammond name on the sign as “kind of a way to honor him and leave a legacy for all the years of work that he did.”
Fayette County Common Pleas Court Judge Steven Beathard also reflected on Hammond’s practice of law. He said he was “a consummate professional” and “he was always helpful and available to mentor young lawyers.” Beathard also said that Hammond “had a tremendous amount of common sense” and “he never took an unreasonable position on a case.”
In addition to their professional interactions, Beathard and Hammond were friends. Beathard said, particularly after Hammond retired, that he “considered him a confidant” and “he was somebody that I would seek advice from.” When Hammond retired, “That really left a void in the legal community because he was such an important part of that community,” said Beathard. He also remarked that Hammond’s passing is “a terrible loss, not only to the legal community but to the county as well.”
Hammond was every bit as loved and respected on a personal level as he was professionally. His friend, former city council member Ben Roby, described him as “a very intelligent man” who “had a great sense of humor,” and was “very personable.” Roby said he and his wife met the Hammonds in 1979 through the Methodist church. They also belonged to the same bridge club. Roby fondly recalled two trips to Europe that the Hammonds and Robys made together. Roby said Hammond “was a good friend and we miss him already.”
Another friend, Steve Jennings, recalled that he and Hammond shared a love of Corvettes. They also “were together in court on many occasions” due to Jennings’ work with the police department. Jennings said, “I enjoyed working with him in court.” Jennings also enjoyed traveling with the Hammonds and other members of the community on a group trip to Austria.
“We just had a marvelous time sharing those memories,” he said. Jennings described Hammond as “a wonderful man around town” and “a remarkable individual,” adding, “He’ll be missed quite a lot around the community.”
Most importantly, Hammond will be remembered as a loving husband, father and brother. Hammond met his wife, Nancy, when the two of them were studying at the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. After they had both graduated, they married. At that time, Nancy said Hammond had the opportunity to clerk for a federal judge on the District of Columbia Circuit, but turned it down because, “He didn’t want his kids to grow up not knowing what a cow looked like.”
Hammond had grown up on a farm and his appreciation of the land and nature was something he never lost. Nancy said she still has the trophy he won as a child when he was named Outstanding 4-H Boy of Fayette County in 1961.
When Nancy and Bob Hammond moved back to Fayette County, his sister, Debbie Weade, said she and Hammond “became much closer.” Weade, who is 11 years younger than Hammond, added, “Part of that was that I was finally not some silly little kid.”
The Hammonds and Weades enjoyed spending holidays and special events together, and raising their similarly-aged children in the same town. Weade said Hammond “will be greatly missed by our family and the community.”
While Hammond was in the hospital at Ohio State, Nancy said she walked over to the law school. It’s been remodeled since she and Hammond studied there, but they still have the old photographs of every graduating class. She flipped through them until she found the black and white photo of her class. She saw herself and Hammond 50 some years ago…..where it all began.
Reach Megan Neary at 614-440-9124 or @MeganNeary2