David “Dash” Charles Hammer, 66, passed away, June 14, of complications from a stroke. He was born in 1950 in Thief River Falls, Minnesota, the first son of Gilmore and Neva (Eckmann) Hammer. The family moved around Minnesota and South Dakota and finally settled in the small town of Olivia, Minnesota when he entered the third grade. There he met Jeff Vadheim,with whom he became a lifelong friend through a shared passion for stamp collecting. He graduated from high school in Mason City, Iowa. The family moved yet again to Garland, Texas, where Hammer entered Texas A&M Commerce, graduating with a degree in music education. From 1974-1979, Hammer completed his master’s in music history while simultaneously building a brand-new band program in Paris, Texas.
On a trip in 1973 to Minneapolis, Minnesota, he was introduced to the first love of his life, Gary Hopson. They maintained a long-distance relationship for five years, but in 1979, Hammer gave up teaching to join Hopson in Houston before eventually buying a house in Arlington, Texas, where Hammer worked in a music store and gave trombone lessons.
Hopson died of AIDS in 1988, but Hammer remained healthy-positive for the next 34 years.
One month after Hopson’s death, Dave met the second love of his life, Randy Lavey, who was playing trombone in a local band. Hammer quit his music jobs and became Lavey’s partner and only other worker in Lavey’s cleaning business, which they ran together until Lavey’s death in 2007.
Hammer was not a businessman and often turned to his friend Vadheim, who had retired from medical practice and was running a B&B in Phoenix, Arizona, for financial guidance. The two did a familiarization tour of Lake Chapala and in August 2010 they arrived at Lakeside with only what they could pack into a Mini Cooper.
Hammer enjoyed his potted-plant gardening, stamp collecting, symphony concerts and opera broadcasts, local theater, playing Mexican Train dominoes, cleaning graffiti in Chapala, and collecting discarded bottle caps for the children’s chemotherapy program. He was an avid TV fan and always found something tolerable to watch.
March 6, he suffered a massive stroke and after a 9-day coma he woke up to quadriplegia and the inability to speak. However, his upper brain functions were intact. He lived the remainder of his life in Casa Nostra Nursing Home.
He is survived by his partner and friend Jeff Vadheim, brothers Richard (Teresa) of Powderly, Texas, and Larry (Jere) of Port Lavaca, Texas, and sister Marlene (Tim) Blaylock of Emory, Texas. His parents had predeceased him.
In lieu of a funeral, he requested a big memorial party, which will be announced in the fall, when some of his ashes will be scattered in Lake Chapala. Another party will be held in Puerto Vallarta next winter for his Texas friends and family when the final scattering of his ashes will take place.