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Rob Hammon

Crusta-Rama, Crusta-Tola, Crust-crust-crust-toleum, Crustin-out. Across the 25 years I’ve known him, these were the inventive nicknames my brother-in-law coined for me. Each name was a derivative of the one that stuck: Crusty, a hybrid of my given name and my reddish hair. Crystal+Rusty= Crusty. He delighted in pelting me with the entire strand all at once. If my food was good, it was dubbed Crustylicious.

But I wasn’t the only one with a nickname. My husband (a former athlete) was Jocko. Their sister was Buns-O-Matic, in reference to her derriere. His mother was Lady GaGa, drawing from the name she was given by her grandchildren. Every niece, every nephew and every in-law had at least one moniker. Even his bosses and co-workers were not exempt from the name game.

I loved the way he played with words, made puns and recited lines from old movies and television comedies. He might have been a fine writer, except for the fact that he couldn’t sit still. Rob fidgeted if he was idle. When he wasn’t working, he built things and took care of people.

After an absence, Rob always greeted my husband with a handshake and a frat-boy introduction: “Eric Stratton, rush chairman—damn glad to meet you,” borrowing a line from Animal House. It saved them the embarrassment of a hug.

They talked on the phone at least three times a week over a drink, a sort of virtual cocktail hour. Even if they had nothing much to say, they sat together. Calls between them ended so subtly and with so few niceties that I hardly knew when they were over. I can’t think of anyone who understood Jim better or anyone Jim admired more.

Rob was the kind of guy you list on forms when they ask you who should be called in an emergency–the kind of guy you can lean on. And lots of people did lean on him. He nurtured old people, children and dogs, especially his own. A hands-on daddy of two beautiful girls, he changed their diapers, braided their hair and helped them become resourceful and independent young women. Once they were grown, he devoted himself to caring for his Mom and Dad.

As a small town banker, Rob knew how to save, invest and manage money. I had always imagined that he would be the one to help me do the right things if something ever happened to Jim.

On vacations, weekends and holiday overnights he was often the first one up in the morning. If you padded up the steps at the right time, you’d find him playing with his mustache and reading a book. In those hours, we talked over coffee and he became as much my brother as the three who are mine by blood.

He was one of those rare people who could be blunt—sometimes even harsh—and somehow get away with it. “What’s your point?” That was the phrase he used if you expressed a view he opposed. He demanded that you make your case with evidence. You had to defend it. I didn’t mind because I always knew he respected me even when we disagreed. How many people can you say that about?

In a world of concealed truths and false appearances, I admired his directness and the way you always knew where you stood with Rob. He didn’t say things to appease people. He didn’t think one way and act another.

Robert David Hammon passed away sometime during the wee hours of Wednesday morning, a total shock to his friends and family. Lord, we’re going to miss him. In one heartbeat, the world changed for all of us. Our funny man is gone.

Make sure you love on the people who matter to you when you leave this post. You never know. It might be the last chance you get.

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.