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.
George Hobbs and I have an understanding: I will admire his downtown Hobby’s Hoagies from afar when it opens (very like this next week) but I will not partake of the Philly Cheese Steak or the Philly Cheese Steak Pizza more than once a month (and honestly probably even less often than that!).
For now, I’m stuck with Subway or a Boca Burger at home (sigh). I sure do hope some of the local restaurant folks come back to me with some nutritional info!
Services for Brett Hamm are scheduled for 2:30 p.m., Saturday, February 28 at Crossings
Community Church located at 14600 N. Portland, Oklahoma City, OK 73134. There will be a Friday viewing from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Smith and Kernke on 14624 N. May Ave.
In lieu of flowers, donations for Brett’s three children can be sent to: Hamm Children’s Fund, c/o Maralee Hamm (important this be specified), MidFirst Bank, NW 164 and May Avenue, Edmond Oklahoma, 73013, (405) 943-8002.
Funeral services aren’t set yet for Brett Hamm. There probably won’t be service information out until tomorrow.
The family’s needs are great.
A Hamm Children’s Fund is being set up at MidFirst Bank, 16401 N May, Edmond, Oklahoma, 73013, (405) 767-7882.
Will update as needed.
I suspect that Kyle Jones - a guy likely to become a best friend with so many of you in the near future – pretty much ruined any chance at knowing the true outcome of the twitter poll. As the poll topped 2,700 votes Kyle commented that he had crashed the poll and that most of the votes were cast by one person (he implies it was himself).
There is circumstantial evidence that Kyle isn’t lying. But … through some investigative efforts I’m still able to determine which side won this poll. As promised, I’ll abide by the outcome.
Now all I’ve got to do is figure out how my hero, the late Mary Jo Nelson, would have handled all this.
The twitter army apparently takes no prisoners. They’ve taken over the poll and there’s been a dramatic reversal in my apparent digital fate (the poll went from 54-46 percent against twitter this morning to 84-16 percent for it).
Meanwhile, I got an email last night welcoming me to twitter. This was a surprise, since I had done everything possible to run away from the Cybermen. I was clueless at first as to who had tried to force my hand – then I got an email from co-worker and digital guy Mike Koehler, who quickly emerged as the suspect. Here’s what unraveled from there:
From: Mike Koehler
Sent: Thursday, February 19, 2009 5:38 PM
To: Steve Lackmeyer
Subject: RE: Twitter
Your anti-Twitterism could no longer be tolerated.
I am eventually going to be training everyone about its benefits, but I’m making you a special case. I think it would help you, just so you could be in the flow of some of the conversations happening on the site that are revelent to you and your sources.
From: Steve Lackmeyer
Sent: Thursday, February 19, 2009 5:35 PM
To: Mike Koehler
Subject: RE: Twitter
did you do this?
Tomorrow I’ll be having coffee with Rick Cain and talking about trolley service downtown and the retail space at the Santa Fe garage. Does anyone have a question they would like asked?
If you were looking for downtown’s movers and shakers this morning, they were gathered at Oklahoma Christian University for the annual Greater Oklahoma City Chamber chairman’s breakfast.
The keynote speaker was Gov. Brad Henry. You could sort the community veterans from the newcomers. Those who have relocated to Oklahoma City in the past year or so were bewildered by the knowing glances and jokes told at Henry’s expense as he ran 40 minutes late. Truth be told, I can’t remember a single event I’ve covered when Henry did show up at the start of the event. And that’s pretty much the shared concensus of the folks I heard from today. The chamber leadership prides itself in running on time and starting matters precisely at the pre-set time. So one can only imagine their discomfort with the suspense over whether or not the governor will even show up for his speech. The veterans I spoke to seem to have a good sense of humor about it all, but one might wonder what impression is being made on the city’s newest corporate leaders.