Slater lost its top cheerleader when Howard Hammond, 88, died last week. He will be missed.
It’s hard for me to imagine Howard not being here. Over all the years I’ve been reporting happenings in and around central Iowa, I have always expected to see Howard with his welcoming smile, gracious handshake, always upbeat.
Nothing seemed to please him more than greeting people and bragging, “I’m from Greater Slater.” His enthusiasm was infectious as he moved from person to person … some acquaintances and others strangers. The strangers weren’t strangers long. Soon everyone in the room knew Howard Hammond.
I can’t help but remember Howard back in the days when he had a “white collar job” with the Iowa Department of Education. As a council member or mayor, he would have to hurry back to Slater from his office in Des Moines for various city, county or state happenings. Instead of changing clothes for such occasions as a ground breaking, hog-kissing ceremony or ribbon cutting, Howard would have a set of clean blue coveralls that he would slide into as he exited his car. He was then ready for anything that might take place.
He had an unbelievable memory. Anytime I ran into a problem coming up with information on the history or background of a person, event or building, all I had to do was ask him. He would pause, maybe scratch his head a little for emphasis and say, “Well, let me see, as I remember …” and he was always right on the money.
Even after Howard retired from public life, he was far from not being involved. No matter what business was coming up before government officials, you can bet Howard had an opinion. Not only did he have an opinion, chances are he had done extensive research on the subject and could offer a plan to make the impossible possible.
Naturally, someone with the ability to offer possible answers from a private citizen’s point of view wasn’t always well received. This is where Howard would really shine. He loved to debate as much as he liked to do research. He would do his debating with no anger or animosity – just facts. It was truly a great spectator sport to watch Howard at work in a hot discussion.
Howard was always willing to roll up his shirtsleeves and go to work. He took an active part in so many public events and projects that it would be hard to list them all. If something needed to be done, you could expect him to be there and do more than his part.
Those days are now over. No more will Howard be around to check things out and point out what he thought was the best and most logical answer. I guess the best way we can honor him is to make sure to check things out and do more than our part to get things done.
Each time I drive the streets of Slater, I’m sure I’ll still see him in his classic family car, peddling his vintage bicycle or his trusty old Ford tractor. Howard will always reside in Slater!
Ed Rood is the former publisher of the Tri-County Times.