Bob Hamm


February 21, 2019 - 10:34 AM

Bob Hamm was studying agriculture at Iola Community College in 1939 when he traveled from his home in Humboldt to New York City with friends to attend the World’s Fair. The theme was “The World of Tomorrow.” Bob was so inspired by what he saw that when he returned to Kansas, he switched to mechanical engineering. He wanted to help build the world of tomorrow.

And he did. As an engineer with Westinghouse for more than 40 years, he worked on some of the important engineering projects of the 20th century, including jet engines, spacecraft, nuclear power, desalination of water, and desulfurization of coal.

Bob was also a great husband and father. He taught his children to work very hard, to be responsible, and to be kind.

James Robert Hamm died on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, at age 98 in Boulder, Colorado.

Bob was born on a farm outside Humboldt, where his ancestors had been pioneers and his parents struggled financially. His parents were Robert William Hamm and Grace Andruss Hamm. When he was very young, his mother would cook turnips on the wood burning stove for him on winter mornings. He would put the turnips in his coat pockets to keep his fingers warm during his walk to a two-room schoolhouse. At lunchtime, he’d eat the turnips.

After graduating from Kansas State University, he joined Westinghouse in Philadelphia, Pa., where he worked in the Steam Division and Aviation Gas Turbine Division. In Philadelphia, he joined the Buck Ridge Ski Club and met Marian “Toddie” Miller on a blind date at a club picnic. They married in 1948. 

Bob loved engineering and farming. With two young sons in tow, he and Toddie moved to Humboldt to farm in the mid-1950s. The land they farmed is now used by Joe Works and B&W Trailer Hitches. But Bob later returned to Westinghouse in Kansas City and Pittsburgh, where he worked at Westinghouse Research. During the 1970s, the family, by then including four children, became part-owners of a farm in Westmoreland County, Pa.

The Hamm family lived in Export, Pa., for many years, but Bob and Toddie moved to Palmrya, Va., when they retired. There, Bob helped launch the first recycling program for Fluvanna County and volunteered with Habitat for Humanity. He and Toddie later moved to Wichita, Kansas. After Toddie died in 2007, Bob moved to Lafayette, Colorado, to be near his daughter and youngest son.

Bob was a nearly-life-long Republican. He left the party over the invasion of Iraq and later became an enthusiastic supporter of President Obama.

Bob is survived by his children, Robert, Stephen, Allison and John Hamm; by grandchildren Ursula Bowling, James Hamm, Daniel Hamm, Laura Hamm, Andre Hamm, Julia Johnson, and Gabriela Hamm; and by great-grandchildren Ephraim, Joy, Lydia, and Miriam Bowling, and Darcy and Thaddeus Hamm. In Humboldt, he was related to the Works and Blattner families.

A memorial service will be held at the First Congregational Church of Boulder on May 4 starting at 11 a.m. He will be buried at Mt. Hope Cemetery in Humboldt at a later date.



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