I’m not so sure this year is going to be one I’ll look back at too fondly. I’ve worked at The Oklahoman for 19 years now and I can’t recall when I’ve seen so many people I’ve come to know well pass away as they have recently. Maybe this is why fellow journalists with more than 20 years have a certain look to them – they’ve been battered in ways that less experienced scribes simply can’t understand.
The rundown to date:
First came Jim Brewer. Jim and I had a love/hate relationship. I grilled him for sure, but I also provided him with plenty of moments to shine in the glory of what was always his beloved Bricktown. As recently as mid-2007 he was yelling and cursing at me over some questions he didn’t care for. A novice reporter might have been intimidated or even offended, but I just smiled the entire time. It was Jim letting off some steam. Sure enough, a year later, in June, he sat down with me at his home to tell his entire life story, warts and all. It was one of the high moments of my career. He died just a couple months later of the ailments that had been dogging him.
Then came Mark Schwartz. I’ll confess right now: I loved hanging out with this old style politician. He was living history. He made debate fun. But I also cost him tens of thousands of dollars without writing a single word. I simply asked annoying questions about no-bid contracts as he was negotiating such a deal with county officials. Mark knew it went against what he preached at City Hall; ultimately I think he was just as eager to call it off as were the county officials. The county folks couldn’t answer my questions. Mark did. His answers will stay between the two of us.
Now comes Brett. I talked with him just a couple weeks ago. Always the spinner, always the cheerleader. I think I ruined a press conference he organized for mortgage bankers and homebuilders back in November (when he was back in the world of running his own pr firm). I asked really rude questions – the kind of hardball questions I think you would want me to ask. The head of the national mortgage bankers group really seemed annoyed with each additional question I threw at him. Brett stayed cool and collected and showed no hint of bitterness at me doing my job.
Mark’s death was tough. Really tough. I spent an entire afternoon at his house once talking while he made old fashioned Jewish-style chicken soup. But I also saw it coming. He was young, but he had lived a pretty full life. But Brett…. heck, he was 41, one year younger than I. You’re not supposed to die that young.
I’ve received more than two dozen emails today, and probably about as many calls, about Brett Hamm. I just noticed a guest book is now posted at www.newsok.com. Meanwhile, here’s a small sampling of what came through my emails today:
“Unfortunately, he had a great many more friends than he must have realized. People want to “know” – even if it makes no sense, I think we automatically need to try and figure it out – and we want to help his ex-wife and children. It’s just so darn sad. ”
- Chip Carter
“I worked with Brett for many, many years in politics and business, including
Washington, DC where he worked for Sen. Nickles and Ackerman McQueen, plus with both Mayors Kirk Humphreys and Mick Cornett, and when he served as President of Downtown OKC, Inc.
Brett was always the first to show appreciation toward others through kind words and gracious expressions of thankfulness. We’ve been longtime friends, and I have lost a dear friend. Oklahoma has lost a tremendous business leader. He will be missed by his many friends and by the downtown business community. His work for downtown helped prepare Oklahoma City for our current successes that will be the foundation for our future.”
- Brenda Jones
“(Brett) has served on the Red Cross board a couple of years and was our treasurer this fiscal year. He will be missed. He was always willing to provide whatever advice we sought and a great smile.”
- Kathy Williams
Best encouragement, advice, wisdom expressed during the past 48 hours (you know who you are): “If it’s not going to eat you, then you live for another day.”
Unless events dictate otherwise, these are my last words to write on this matter. Brett, I hope you’re at peace now.