July 24, 1923 — Jan. 3, 2013
Charles “Charlie” Leroy Hammes, 89, passed away of natural causes on Jan. 3, 2013 at Our House Senior Living assisted living facility in Cambridge, Wis. Charlie was born in Cambridge on July 24, 1923 to Frank and Mabel (Johnson) Hammes. His childhood was turned upside down when at age 5 his father died in a train accident while delivering ice in London, Wis.
Throughout his school years, Charlie worked many jobs to help his mother and siblings. He also found joy in playing sports that would last his lifetime. He graduated from Cambridge High School in 1941 where he was an exceptional athlete. In 1941, Charlie was named Southern Wisconsin’s highest scoring high school basketball player in addition to securing the individual scoring title for the Madison Suburban League. Charlie and his lifelong friend Don Rumpf led Cambridge to win the 1941 district basketball championship trophy. Charlie was also a stand out football player who helped his beloved coach and mentor, Jim Knoblauch, and teammates win numerous conference football championships. Charlie married Louise Elizabeth Johnson, the love of his life, on June 19, 1956, and became a stepfather to teenager Robert Johnson. In 1964, Charlie and Betty added to their family by adopting Ross Wayne Hammes.
Charlie enlisted in the Army Air Corps on June 18, 1942. Thirty two years later on Jan. 1, 1975, he retired from the Air Force with the rank of Senior Master Sergeant. Charlie’s military career started as a ball turret gunner on a B-24 Liberator in the Western Pacific Campaign during World War II and ended following his love of sports as an athletic director. His military career took him to Japan, Morocco, the Philippines, Phu Cat Vietnam and many U.S. bases. Betty accompanied him on many of his postings, volunteered in family services and received accolades for her compassionate work with families. Charlie was a natural diplomat and enjoyed getting to know and work with people from many cultures and walks of life. He played on and coached many winning and championship Air Force basketball, football and volleyball teams and excelled at running athletic tournaments. Charlie received numerous commendations for the outstanding work he and his staff provided in recreational programs and special services. After retiring from active duty, Charlie worked another 17 years as an athletic director for the U.S. government in New Mexico and California.
After returning from Vietnam, Charlie and Betty lived primarily in Davis. He was well known and loved in his neighborhood and could be seen walking 2-3 miles a night after supper up until a few years before his death. He took great pride in assisting Betty in growing beautiful roses. He loved to travel in his Lincoln Town Car and visit friends and family in Oregon, Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma and Wisconsin. He and Betty especially loved getting together with their dear Air Force friends in an annual trip to Las Vegas.
Charlie was full of good humor and a kind and generous person. Charlie often said it takes fewer muscles to smile than to frown. He smiled and laughed often and had a gift for coaxing a smile or laugh from everyone he met. He gave generously of his time and talents and was a mentor to countless people. In 2011, stepson Bob and nephew Oren helped Charlie move back to his hometown of Cambridge where he continued to be immensely popular with family and friends and enjoyed making new friends.
Charlie was preceded in death by his parents; wife Betty; son Ross; brothers Oren, Clifford, Oliver and Douglas Hammes; sisters Frances L. Hammes, Elizabeth Hartman and Frances C. Christensen; nephews Stanley and Kenneth Hartman; niece Elyse Ann Hundley; brothers-in-laws Jim and Owen Garner; and sisters-in-law Ida Mae Johnson and Lillie Hammes.
He is survived by stepson Bob (Joan) Johnson; nephews Oren (Patty) Hammes and Michael Christensen; sisters-in law Gretel Hammes of Kusel, Germany, and Kathryn Wathen of Lawton, Okla.; grandsons Michael and Craig Johnson; great grandsons Corbin and Zane; nieces Donna Fitzwilliams, Charlene Graphman and Sylvia Hall; and many other loving family members and friends.
The family extends a deep heartfelt thank you to Our House Senior Living staff for the excellent compassionate care Charlie received and to the Cambridge Emergency Medical Services EMTs and staff of the VA Hospital in Madison.
Family and friends are invited to a celebration of Charlie’s life on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013 from 1:30 – 3:30 p.m. at 1427 Nutmeg Lane, Davis. Charlie will be interred at the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery 580 Midway Rd., Dixon, Ca, on Wednesday, Feb.27, 2013 at 10:30 a.m., where he will receive full military honors. Kraft Bros. Funeral Home, Woodland, CA, is assisting the family.