Barnesville-Lamar County lost two stalwarts over the past week with the deaths of Willie Hamm and Junior Hamrick. Both of them meant much to the community and much to me personally.
I first met Willie Hamm at some sort of athletic event in the spring of 2011. I had a picc line in my arm covered by a bandage. Willie, a cancer patient, was no stranger to picc lines and we lamented over it.
I could tell right away that this was a man who had kept his sense of humor and great smile despite life having tried repeatedly to beat him down. The antibiotics in my picc line damn near killed me but I survived.
At the first Lamar football game that fall, Willie rolled up in his familiar blue scooter with that big grin on his face and said simply, “You made it!”.
Willie was all about making it. He made the Olympic track team in 1980 but did not get to go to the games because Jimmy Carter decided we would boycott the Moscow Olympics. Willie didn’t much like Jimmy Carter, something else we had in common
Willie was in a serious car crash and spent 18 months at the Shepherd Spinal Center. After that ordeal, he got cancer. Twice he went to hospice. Twice he walked out.
He became a mentor to athletes at his alma mater and was a fixture at athletic events. He particularly enjoyed ceremonies in which his athletes signed college scholarships.
Last year, cancer returned. Willie had to undergo a treatment in which techs in protective gear shot radioactive material into his veins. It was tough but he made it.
He was back at basketball games earlier this month and I was shocked when word came that he had died.
He was an inspiration and positive role model to many and will be sorely missed.
Junior Hamrick was laid to rest Monday. He died Jan. 21 at the age of 89. Junior was a combat veteran of the Korean War, an insurance executive and quite the character. It was impossible not to like Junior which I am sure served him well selling insurance.
Junior commanded the local VFW Post for 30 years and commanded it well. Sadly, it has declined sharply since he stepped away.
In his VFW role, Junior read the list of veterans who had died over the past year at each and every Veterans Day observance. He could never make it through without crying.
Junior cared deeply about this community and its veterans and he, too, will be sorely missed.
Indeed, two good men are gone.
Let us mourn them both!
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