On Monday, November 3rd at 11:59pm, we lost my father-in-law, Steven Jay Hammer. Below are the remarks I made today at his funeral. I share them with you both to pay tribute to a great man and to offer you a glimpse into the life of a true Master Networker…
My business is Networking. I believe that by Connecting with others, establishing Community and deepening one’s sense of Belonging, we can achieve, as Henry David Thoreau put it, “a success unexpected in common hours.” That was the epitome of my father-in-law, Steven Hammer, or “Poppi,” as we lovingly referred to him.
When it came to building strong, meaningful, authentic Connections, Stevie was the master. He was born with it. Never did the man meet a stranger. He had a winning smile that could light up a room, a contagious laugh that brought ease to any situation and a warmth that made you feel like you were the most important person in the world and he’d been waiting all day just to see you. And, he was always up for a delicious meal with you – anytime, anywhere. The man was an artist when it came to eating well.
Perhaps one of the greatest examples of these qualities took place in 1966 over burgers, fries and sodas at Winstead’s when a young Steve knew he’d found the love of his life, Susan Dulsky. Being a connoisseur of fine dining, Stevie carefully ate all around the edges of his Steakburger, saving the heart, the most delicious bite, for the very end. Seeing the seemingly discarded center of the burger sitting idly on the plate, Susan reached across, plucked the fine cut of meat between two fingers and popped it in her mouth! Within months, the two married, and shortly thereafter along came Brian, Marc and Daniel.
For my sisters-in-law and myself, we each knew we held a special place in his heart. He belonged to each of us – just as intensely as he belonged to each of our husbands, his boys and best buds. He loved us each as if we were his own children and showered us with adoration and affection.
And, oh, one only need be in the presence of Poppi with any number of his six grandchildren to feel the love fill up the joint! Talk about his pride and joy… he could never get enough time with his little pals. Nor could they get enough time with their fun-loving Poppi. My own, Ian, would clamber at the opportunity to watch any sporting event with his pally, Poppi – especially if it involved Doosies and Dr. Brown’s Black Cherry sodas.
Always, I will remember with fondness weekends at the lake with Nonnie and Poppi and the rest of the crew complete with long boat rides and frozen custard at Randy’s. Poppi’s keen interest in Marc’s business endeavors and mine. Eleven consecutive trips to Omaha for the Big Show where we regaled in the presence of The Oracle, our very own Uncle Warren. I am quite certain visits to Nebraska Furniture Mart and Borsheim’s will never again be the same.
Thanks to Stevie, I know that, indeed, a mouse can pull a house if he says it can and you’d better hitch him up… that salami tastes best when grilled and doused in apricot mustard… that Barney Greengrass really is the Sturgeon King… that generosity can be quiet, yet, very impactful… that the love of one’s macha tootsies is palpable… that family really does come first.
It’s been my privilege and great honor to be part of the Hammer family for these last 17 plus years in the warm embrace of its patriarch, Steven Hammer. I know we will be giggling for many long years to come as we recall memories of times gone by with a fellow who was really larger than life. Poppi, I love you and will miss you forever.