We celebrated my dad’s full life on April 29th, 2023. I wanted to share his service, eulogy and my portion of the service here as a little tribute to him. Love you, Dad.
The video of the entire service can be found here and is embedded below: https://youtu.be/wpwQPxQ86S4
The video of his entire Celebration of Life (including music while people are entering and exiting) can be found here: https://youtu.be/fOq8ZBHsj6o
Steven Thomas “Hammy” Hamline was born June 14, 1957 in Independence, Missouri. As a child, Steve was a popular ring leader of his many friends and the future architect was an avid builder of sturdy tree houses and forts. He always had a love for animals, especially dogs, and was known for dragging dogs home and telling his mother they had followed him. Around the age of 9, he was baptized at Beaumont Baptist Church where his grandfather was highly involved. He and his sister Lori, used to sit like angels in the front row while their mom sang in the church services. He was responsible and seemed to always know what needed to be done around the house while his mom worked as a nurse. An early entrepreneur, Steve and his friend Denny had a lawn mowing and snow shoveling business that allowed them to buy ice cream with $5 bills all summer when their friends were begging their parents for quarters. He learned to drive at his dad’s auto salvage business and by age 14 was driving a tow truck in downtown Kansas City where he would negotiate the purchase of non-working cars with adults. Working at the auto salvage shop helped him develop many of the skills that would serve him later on in his professional life, especially negotiation, work ethic, and grit.
He attended Blue Springs High School where he managed the boys basketball and football teams. He was on a racing pit crew at I-70 speedway for a driver his dad sponsored and worked on his and other cars in the evenings after school.
He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Architecture from the University of Kansas, home of the National Champion KU Jayhawks, as he would say. He also earned a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Rockhurst University. He worked for JE Dunn Construction Company for 38 years and was President of the Rocky Mountain region before he retired in 2017. He had a passion for giving back and served on many boards including Hope House Domestic Violence Shelter, Junior Achievement, UMB Bank, the National Network to End Domestic Violence and others. He was also awarded a national appointment to the General Services Administration to ensure a high standard of excellence in government construction projects by peer review.
His greatest accomplishment and joy in life was his loving, wonderful marriage to his high school sweetheart, Ramona Hamline. They had two children, Melissa and Mike, who he loved dearly and was very proud of. Steve had 6 grandchildren he loved to spoil, 2 from Melissa (Noah and Lydia) and 4 from Mike (Hannah, Jonah, Eden, and Delilah). He loved being called Poppy. He enjoyed international travel, fishing with his longtime buds, and seeing the country by Airstream. He spoiled his best buddy and constant companion, Rusty the labradoodle, 24/7 and loved to buy him plain double burgers from McDonald’s even though he wasn’t supposed to.
Steve’s life ended too soon due to a complication a week after having a hip replacement but his legacy will be the lives he touched in love, friendship, and leadership.
My “Speech” at the Celebration of Life
Today I would like to say a little something about the man I had the honor of calling Dad. And to truly honor him, I will also be giving this little speech in the manner of the one and only Steve Hamline. By that, I mean I will call it a speech as he did for any opening remarks, toast, or any other time he was expected to say anything. It was always a full blown speech. This will have some of the humor that he loved and graced us all with. It will be full of too many details, a few awkward pauses that we may need today and might be a little longer than actually necessary. So get comfy.
I recently had the honor to experience the celebration of life for my friend’s mama where they discussed the “P words” God had placed on her heart prior to her passing: Peace, People, Positivity and others. Maybe because of that experience as we were going through the week of my dad’s passing there were some words that kept coming up that I noticed all started with L: Leadership, Loyalty, LIVE!, Love, and Legacy. So those will be my focus today.
There are lots of L words there but in Steve Hamline fashion you can’t start with anything other than leadership. Even in his “speech” at our wedding, Dad spoke about our leadership roles and abilities before our love for each other. Being a leader and growing leaders was very important to him. Dad was known professionally for his unique and special leadership. He was never satisfied with status quo was always pushing to go farther, execute better. People who worked with him described him as passionate, engaging, firm but fair…. And as someone who needed pretty regular IT support. Sometimes to find a letter on the keyboard or just turn something on.
But in any setting, he walked in with Command with everyone in the room usually following his lead, sometimes without even realizing that he had convinced them to do something. I would also call him a maximizer since he could see potential in people and in places, in buildings or land. He definitely left his mark on the world in the people and places he molded to be their best in his lifetime.
Dad worked hard and insisted that you always give your best effort, whether you were sweeping the floor or putting together financials for a 100 million dollar project. It was all the same to him. You gave 100% effort no matter what the task. If you worked with him you wanted to succeed, you wanted to make him proud. And Mike and I would say that if you were his kid, you wanted the same. Both of our first jobs were really working manual labor on the land we grew up on and we absolutely benefited from learning his work ethic. That’s why no one can out work a Hamline, right Mike?
JE Dunn in Denver honored Dad by naming the Training Center after him for all of these reasons and that was something that he truly felt honored by and I’m so glad he got to see that.
Because of Dad’s leadership qualities and sense of command, I would imagine that the good Lord has probably already had to lovingly tell him a few times “Sir, you are not in charge here.”
Now this next L word has to be in all caps, underlined 6 times and with an exclamation point because my dad truly knew how to live and get the absolute most out of life. I often teased him for speaking in itinerary as it seemed a lot of our conversations were outlines of all the plans he had. He could never talk about something as a maybe one day type of thing. If a place to go or something fun was mentioned, he made a plan to make it happen and then he executed it with absolute precision.
Most of my best life experiences were with my dad. Deepest conversations, fun trips with the whole family, best bottles of wine, most fun late nights talking around a fire pit. Best games attended, like the KU vs Texas basketball game when Dick Vitale gave Hennrich and Collison a standing ovation. Dad and I were there. He found the best dive bars and greasy spoon breakfast places. Many of my best meals were enjoyed with my dad (half of which were made my him). We had long Sunday Dinners growing up. He’d cook something just a little fancy with us all as his sous chefs and then we’d linger around the table talking sometimes for hours. As much as he worked and as busy as we all were, those dinners were a must each week and were made special because of the preparation and love he would put into them.
Any ordinary experience was an opportunity to create something fun to my dad. One good example of this was just before Christmas last year I asked if I could come wrap some presents at their house since we were having Christmas there anyway and it would be easier. I got a text back saying no problem but a couple days later I received a phone call asking for more details regarding my exact time of arrival and departure and anything I would need to execute my present wrapping. Dad wanted to make me a special eggs benedict with a recipe he got from chatting with the owner of a restaurant in Hawaii. I have a tradition of watching Sleepless in Seattle while I wrap presents, a random tradition I started in college, so he made sure to have that ready to stream. He also had his smoker to the perfect temperature the moment of my arrival since he heard I was co-hosting a party I needed to provide pulled pork for that weekend and my smoker was in storage while we were building our house. Wrapping presents for Christmas of 2022 was a day I will always remember because he made it so fun and special. It could have been so ordinary, just a task to get done but not with my dad.
Mom and Dad would occasionally take our kids for an evening or weekend so Andrew and I could get away. Dad would often call the week before to get menu requests from the kids and then the day before to give them the whole run down of what they could expect. And then Andrew and I would be sitting at some fancy restaurant getting pictures of our kids sitting at the head of my mom and dad’s table eating lamb shanks or linguine and clams or something else that looked even better than what we were having. Again, he made everything special.
Dad didn’t just live fully with family. He was the type of person who met new friends on vacation. He would get cell phone numbers and addresses and make future plans with his new friends. He and my mom traveled quite a bit and the stories they would come back with were never about going somewhere new and seeing a few sites, they always wound up with stories about meeting interesting people, having new experiences with new friends. They didn’t just eat at restaurants, they met restaurant owners who wound up giving their cell phone number and recipes to my dad.
One of my favorite examples of ability he had to LIVE big is a story from their recent trip to Europe. In Barcelona, my dad made sure to book a cool paella cooking class. And if he was telling you this, he would give you a five minute intro about the walk to the class, the building, how the kitchen was laid out, etc but I will spare you some of those details. It was semi-private class so there were a few other people there. In classic Steve Hamline style, Dad didn’t just attend the class with my mom and go back to their room after it was done. No, he met everyone during the class. Found out where they were from, who they were traveling with, what they were up to the rest of the evening. He then coordinated everyone in the group after the class to go to a fancy local bar he had read about being in the top 50 in the world. For the young women traveling together, he helped them understand the Spanish menu and helped them order drinks they would like, even ordering a second drink for one after it wasn’t exactly what they expected. And at the end of the night he paid the check for all of his new friends, moving the young women to tears that someone they just met would be so kind to them.
But that’s what it was like bumping into my dad in the world. He knew how to connect with people, how to make everything even better.
Up in Heaven, I imagine he has already coordinated a weekly Sunday dinner.
It should be no surprise that many of the same people who were led by my dad or bumped into him randomly in life also couldn’t help but call him a loyal, dear friend. When Mom and I were making the calls to let people know he had passed away, we were both struck by how many men truly wept with us and called Dad their best friend. And that was genuine. He had a lot of best friends because he was a great friend.
Dad made a lot of phone calls on birthdays and stood by people in difficult times. He’d tell people he’d “wear out the knees in his pajamas praying for them”. He had friends he’d known for 50 plus years and friends he’d known for 5 months. I like what Lori said about a friendship with my dad being a lifetime membership. That is exactly right. You couldn’t help but want to be friends with him, want to be around him.
As we were gathering pictures for today, we also commented on how people just seemed to flock around him. He was at the very center of so many pictures surrounded by good friends or family. Some of his best times were definitely with his people around a fire pit chatting, and usually offering up some free advice. He had a gift for hearing people out, encouraging them to bet on themselves, and seeing the bigger picture with the ultimate goal of getting people to their full potential, their calling. We teased him about giving so much advice but in reality… didn’t we all love it? Didn’t we often need it? And gosh darnit, wasn’t he usually right?
Dad’s loyalty to his friends as great as it was truly was second to his loyalty to our family. As firm as he was at work, it may be surprising to some that he was not the disciplinarian in our family. Mom had to do most of that because Dad had a hard time getting on to his “little friends” as he called Mike and me. He worked hard and often long hours but he would get home when we were little and get right in the floor with us to play. Suit and all. He loved taking us places and doing fun things with us. He acted like everything we did together was the absolute best thing he could possibly be doing in that moment.
Dad was always in our corner and stuck with us in good times and hard times. Any mistakes were opportunities to be learned from, not to be shamed for. He made sure we could pursue whatever passions we had and often said that first horseback riding lesson I had in Kindergarten was the worst financial decision of his life. But he always said it with a smile.
As Lori said, we teased him about being the original GEICO man. You know the commercials where the people are becoming their parents and introducing themselves to the waiter and things like that. He was famous for giving waiters way more backstory than they ever would have wanted. In his defense, I think this started when I was in my 20s and we would be out to dinner just the two of us. He wanted to make sure all of the staff knew this was a Father-Daughter Date, not a Date-Date. He wasn’t that type of guy. But this slowly morphed into telling waiters, tour guides, or anyone who was doing anything for our family all of our names and how we were related, how long everyone had been married and the latest thing he was excited about for each of the grandkids. To which waiters would often reply “You have a beautiful family, sir. And what did you want to drink?”
He was proud of his family and was not bashful about letting anyone and every one know about it. He knew he wanted his family to be a close knit group of people who enjoyed being with each other and he made it happen. And we all knew how much he loved and enjoyed his time with each and every one of us.
Mike- He thought everything you made with your hands was an absolute treasure and loved watching you become a Dad and do well in your career.
Brittany- Dad got misty one night pretty recently telling me about how happy he was to see that Mike found love. It was really important to him and it means a lot to me that he saw that in his lifetime.
Hannah, Jonah, and Eden- He was loving getting to know each of you and he loved being your Poppy.
And Baby Delilah- Someone will have to tell you one day that he was so happy you were born and told almost every person in this room that he shared a birthday with you.
Lori- He loved to open a bottle of wine with you and cook or draw out plans for something in your house. Dad didn’t talk about you like you were his little sister. He talked about you like you were one of his favorite friends in all the world.
Andrew- He loved how much you love me. He knew we were the real deal so he didn’t really worry about us at all. He loved the leader you are at work but he also loved how you figured out how to do everything you do and also make it to almost every game or event for our kids.
Noah and Lydia- You were Poppy’s new “little friends” from the day you were born. He loved cooking for you and couldn’t tell you no ever, for anything. I’m sure all of Heaven has already seen the video of you hitting that championship game winning shot, Noah, and heard about how well you’re doing in school. And Lydia, he loved your personality, and your brains too. I actually see so much of him in you and I think he did too. Not just because you’ve been inviting strangers over to our house since you were two years old but also because you bring so much joy to any room you enter. That always worked out well for him too.
And when I get home I’ll have to tell Rusty, Dad’s beloved labradoodle, that yes, he was in fact Dad’s favorite child as much as it hurts me to say it.
Now, the greatest of these is LOVE.
I have saved the biggest and best of my Dad’s loves for last. The relationship my dad had with my mom was the greatest example of a loving marriage I have seen in my life and I would be willing to bet that many in this room agree. <Standing ovation occurred at service.>
May we all be loved in our life the way my dad loved my mom. From the sticky note he gave her that said “You are the best part of my life” to the way he surprised her after he retired with the super tricked out Airstream she’d always wanted after interviewing her secretly for an entire year about each and every individual detail and feature she could possibly dream to have. They were the cute couple holding hands and snuggling at all events, from baseball games to church services. They have been skiing, golfing, traveling, and entertaining together since the beginning of their almost 43 year marriage. They kissed and danced in the kitchen often. Every kid should grow up seeing that. After going through all the family photo albums recently I can tell you they are kissing in a lot of pictures. It was obvious to all how much they loved each other and enjoyed being around each other.
Mike and I had the absolute blessing to grow up in a home with this example. No matter what was going on in the world we had the steady rock of our parents’ love and relationship to come home to. We were constantly shown how to love and support your spouse. How to be a true partner in life. We want our loves to look like their love and will gladly put in the work to make sure they do. Our relationships have benefitted from that example and the legacy of that example will continue with our kids and beyond.
Again, Dad knew the type of relationship he wanted and he made it happen with the love of his life. Mom, everything Dad had in life was far behind what he had with you. You made his life complete. He loved you so incredibly much.
And, Mom, he absolutely knew how loved he was in return.
All of these come together to form my dad’s lasting legacy. When he retired, he was given a picture he loved with all of the buildings in Kansas City, Denver, and beyond that he had a part in bringing to existence.
He loved it and loved being able to drive through a city and see his life’s work. Many of us know how much he loved being able to point out blue cranes as he drove by. You may have had a hand thrust past your face to have it pointed out to you so you didn’t miss it. And those buildings are part of his legacy but in reality his greatest legacy are all the people who God put in his life and he touched in some way.
And his legacy goes on through each person he impacted.
My dad wasn’t going around beating people over the head with the Bible. We all know, that doesn’t really work anyway, right? But my dad was out there living the big life he was blessed with fully and loving on each an every person God had him bump into.
When I think of my dad and what his life taught me I think it could be summed up in loving my partner with all my heart, to try to treat my kids like my “little friends,” and to treat each and every person God puts in my life like a potential new best friend, like the Lord himself would treat that person. And to buy the good steaks and take the time and make the effort to cook them to perfection. And in my life I hope to get half as good at that all as he was.
And I’ll end with saying to my dad on behalf my family, It was an honor to be your wife, your son, your sister. It was an honor to call you Poppy.
It was a honor to be your daughter, Dad.
And we look forward to being around your table again someday.