Tony Hammes
Tony's Funeral

Tony's funeral on Wednesday 4th October 2017 went very well. Redditch Crematorium was full, with standing room only at the back. Slugs were well represented with thirteen of us present including Martin all the way from Munich. The undertakers wore rainbow ties.

The service was conducted by a civil celebrant in accordance with Tony's wishes and there was someone to sign at the front as there was a significant attendance from the deaf community. Memories provided by Slugs were incorporated into the introduction, many of them centring around his cooking in The White House and his skill with the oil drum oven. We heard that he had been actively involved in local drama, working with and supporting the deaf community, the local LGBT community and with Rainbow Voices (a Midlands based choir that provides the opportunity for LGBT people to get together and sing). In all of these he was actively involved both in organizing events and supporting people and bringing his caring and generous nature to all he did. A busy man!

The acting will come as no surprise to Slugs who remember him from the 70's! It was an interest and passion that had started in his school days. Maybe you remember his impersonation of Winston Churchill? His interest in signing and in helping the deaf community started with his work in the prison service when he realized that deaf prisoners didn't have sufficient support. So as you may know he worked hard to become proficient in sign language. Towards the very end of his life when he couldn't talk he could still sign, and his deaf friends were pleased to be able to communicate with his nurses on his behalf.

Tony did his first degree in Chemistry at York University starting in 1971 and was at Lancaster from 1975 to 1977. Apparently he loved science and Mathematics as well as bow ties. He had a love of Alan Bennett and again did a good impression. His friend Stephen Ward read three of Tony's favourite extracts from Alan Bennet's diaries.

A personal tribute from Phil Freeman highlighted Tony's caring and supporting nature, then there was a recording of the Rainbow Voices choir singing Both Sides Now (the Joni Mitchel song).

Here I include the text of 'If I Should Go' by Joyce Grenfell which was read out and captures Tony's feelings about his funeral.

If I should go before the rest of you
Break not a flower nor inscribe a stone
Nor when I'm gone speak in a Sunday voice
But be the usual selves that I have known
Weep if you must
Parting is hell
But life goes on
So sing as well.

Tony had dropped off the Slugs scene many years ago, as you can see he was very busy, but he joined in the ski trip for several years and often gave up his time to help novice slug skiers get started. With the onset of his illness he wanted to reconnect, and many slugs visited him in the nursing home, wrote to him and sent him photos.

The dining room at The Southcrest Manor Hotel was crowded for the funeral tea, with many groups discussing memories and looking at albums of photos which Team Tony had distributed around the room as well as some of the framed pictures he had in his home including the picture of Mike Wright diving through the sump in Agua and the photos of the human pyramid which you may have seen recently on Facebook. There was a letter from Chris Baxter that Tony had been really touched by.

There was a moving tribute to Tony on the Birmingham Deaf Community Facebook page. Here it is: "Tony Hammes passed away last night battle with cancer, he will be sorely missed in Birmingham Deaf Community, he always help out interpreter and volunteer for different projects always have passion for Deaf community make a change, he is great guy will never forget, no more suffer RIP xx"

Tony had no family to support him and three friends from his Lancaster days became "Team Tony" supporting him while he was in the nursing home, organizing his funeral, and they are seeing that his Will is carried out, selling his house, disposing of his possessions etc. When they asked him what he wanted doing with his ashes he said "Do whatever gives you lasting joy". Any ideas?