Goodbye to Jean Hamacher, a dear friend

By Linda Emley

On April 22, 2010, the Richmond News published my first “If Postcards Could Talk” article. It was a once-a-week column that changed to twice a week in July 2010. I had originally planned to do stories for a year but my plans changed and now it’s four years later. I’ve had several people ask me what I’m going to do when I run out of stories and I always laugh because history happens faster than I can write.

One of the reasons I started writing was because I wanted to save the Richmond News from closing like many newspapers have. I’ve always enjoyed reading history columns by Jewell Mayes and I hoped that others would feel the same.

I gave up many things when I started writing “Postcards.” I stopped watching TV, but the most valuable thing I gave was my time.

Anyone who’s read my column from the start knows Milford Wyss has been one of my research friends over the years. My parents, J.B. and Betty Lou Martin, have also spent many hours telling me stories. If they don’t have the answer I’m looking for, they always know who I need to call.

I have many friends who have helped over the years, but there’s one person who made this all possible who’s never been mentioned before. I have a very good friend who doesn’t live here who’s been with me from day one. When I wrote my first column, I asked him to read it and check for errors. Every week he would find a word or two that was spelled wrong and then give me a big thumbs up.

His words of encouragement kept me going when I wasn’t sure if anyone would want to hear my stories. I was afraid he was just being nice, but then one day I noticed he had fallen in love with Ray County because he felt the love I shared in my stories. Here’s to you my dear friend, thanks for being there for me over the years.

I spent many hours at the museum reading old newspapers looking for details for the columns. Along the way, I found a friend who helped me in the next stage of my life. One day while doing research, I ran into Jean Hamacher. I’d always known who Jean was, but our paths had never crossed. Looking back, I have to laugh because I knew her husband in the 1980s when I worked for the Ray County Fellowship Center. Donna Pack was managing the center and I was her errand girl who ran things to the courthouse. I regularly delivered paperwork to Newton Hamacher’s office and got to appreciate his dry humor. I never thought that his wife and I would later become dear friends.

Jean was on the Historical Society Board and spent many hours at the museum. She took an interest in my stories and would show me things she thought I’d appreciate. One day she told me she was going to give up her seat on the board and wanted me to replace her. I’d been the Ray County Senior Board secretary years ago and really didn’t think it was something I’d have time for, but she talked me into it. In January 2011, I was voted in as a member on the Ray County Historical Society Board and Jean was happy I was replacing her.

A few months later, I started volunteering full-time as the museum manager and Jean became my top visitor. I always loved seeing her come up those front steps with a story and a treasure to show me. Jean was 33 years older than me, but we were more than just friends. I think it’s interesting how sometimes you meet someone and just know you’ll always be dear friends. Jean told me many wonderful tales about life around Richmond, but she also told me stories about herself. We talked “girl friend” talk. She told me wonderful stories about growing up on her dad’s farm near Orrick and her life with her husband. I always felt comfortable with Jean and it was obvious she felt the same way. She loved Alexander Doniphan as much as I did, so we shared stories. She loved Mormon history and Orville Hixon, two more of my favorites. But my all-time favorite story was about her attending a party at Prior Lodge with J.J. Prior. He would throw a big party once a year and invite everyone. I would have loved going to one of them. We can’t forget the story about the WW II POWs who worked the potato harvest near Orrick. It was Jean who gave me the picture of her father working with the POWs. I owe many stories to my dear friend Jean.

Jean always wanted me to write a story about Richmond parks, but I held off because I was afraid she’d give up her battle with cancer when I finally got it done. I’m working on it and will share it soon.

I know this might sound strange, but sometimes I was Jean’s designated driver. She loved a glass of wine and on several occasions I escorted her to an event. When Levan Thurman had his 90th birthday party last year, Jean was my date. We always had fun when we were out on the town.

Now this story is coming full circle because here’s the rest of the story. My original reason for trying to keep the Richmond News open is so our daily lives will be recorded in the pages of our local newspaper. If the News ever shut down, the only time our names would be in the newspaper would be The Kansas City Star obituaries.

When Jean died, the News had a nice obituary that shared some of the highlights of her life. On the other hand, the March 11 Star ran the following obituary for my friend: “Jean Hamacher, 90, of Richmond, Mo., died March 7, 2014. Service 11 a.m. Wednesday, Thurman Funeral Home, Richmond. Visitation 7 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, at funeral home. Internment at later date.”

I hope the News is still alive when I die so I can have a nice obituary that says, “Ray County lost it’s ‘Postcard Lady’ yesterday.” RIP my dear friend, Jean.

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