Gerald “Buck” Hamer leaves a legacy of being a kind, caring man who loved his grocery business, family, church and community.
Hamer, an Alton resident, died this week at age 92 and his funeral was Saturday in Alton. John Kennedy, of Alton, a fellow Elm Street Presbyterian Church member, said “Buck” was “Mr. ESPC” (Elm Street Presbyterian Church).
“He was always there at Elm Street Presbyterian,” he said. “If Buck wasn’t there you knew something was wrong. Everybody knew Buck. He donated some 30 years in charge of buildings and grounds. He devoted most of his spare time to the church and just loved it.”
Kennedy also said, “If Buck isn’t up in heaven, I don’t think any of us have a chance of being there.”
Betsy Hamer, Buck’s niece, said her uncle received his nickname from his grandfather when he was age 2 or 3 and he used to run up to see him from McKinley to West Elm in Alton. “His mother would call and say Gerald is on the way to see you and his grandfather would say ‘is that little wild Buck loose again?’”
When Buck returned home from World War II, he and his brother Bud teamed to run two I.C. Hamer Food Marts until 1975 when Buck retired. Buck was honorably discharged from the Navy after two years in the Pacific on Oct. 19, 1945. The Hamer and Rain families once owned six grocery stores in Alton.
Janet Renick, his daughter, said her father was always upbeat.”
“He was a good man,” she said. “I walked to the grocery store all the time with other kids. There wasn’t anything you couldn’t ask him that he didn’t know.”
Janet’s husband, John Renick said about Buck: “He was a man who never met a person he didn’t like. He was a very friendly and generous man.”
Buck is survived by his wife, Elaine, for 71 years. The couple marked their 71st wedding anniversary on Dec. 5.
Betsy Hamer said her uncle was “just so well loved.”
“I feel very proud to be part of the family knowing how many people he and my father helped,” she said. “At my own father’s funeral in 1982 the line around the funeral home was incredible. I started hearing stories 30 years ago from the people they helped around Alton, especially during war times when they offered free food and helped provide jobs.”
Buck Hamer thought so much of others, he planned his funeral for a Saturday, so people wouldn’t have to miss work to visit him one last time.
“He enjoyed his life tremendously,” said Betsy Hamer.
Hamer served his country, was an incredible family man, business owner and always kind and charitable to those who knew him. When people were without food in difficult times in World War II, he was there to offer food. Those acts will not be forgotten by the families around the Alton area.
“He was just a wonderful guy,” said Janet Renick.