Laurence Cyril Hammond, Jr.
Milwaukee - Laurence Cyril Hammond, Jr. died Saturday, November 21, 2020 at Columbia St. Mary's Hospital, Milwaukee, after a brief fight with pneumonia. His family thought he would live forever; alas, he is at rest.
Larry was born in 1927 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The Great Depression strained his parents and sewed instability and hardship, such that the family bounced from Kenosha to Appleton then La Crosse in pursuit of better prospects. Larry's five siblings, who idolized him, often asserted that it was he who had raised them, taking up any and all manner of work in his teens ~ from stoking a blast furnace at a petroleum coke plant to digging ditches on a road construction crew to running for a bookmaker ~ to ensure that they were fed.
When he came of age in the waning days of World War II, "Bud" was drafted right out of high school and trained in the artillery. About to ship out with what was to have been the U.S. invasion force, he suddenly found his duty changed from combat to occupation and reconstruction in a Japan decimated by atomic bombs, a horror he never forgot.
Larry returned home in 1947 determined to build a better life than he had known as a youth, one founded on civility, respect for the law, and care for others, which he believed to be the foundations of peace. He entered an accelerated English and pre-law program at Lawrence College. There, he met his radiant lodestar, Patricia Hammel, an aspiring schoolteacher from Iron Mountain, and the rest, as they say, is history. They wed November 5, 1950. Although he started law school, soon he was called back into service in the Korean War, this time serving his tour in Schwäbisch Hall, Germany and attaining the rank of First Lieutenant. Once home for good in Wisconsin, he returned to the University of Wisconsin Law School, again working any and all jobs he could find to support his wife and new baby, including, to his children's undying amusement, selling ladies shoes.
In 1955 Larry joined Quarles, Herriott & Clemons in Milwaukee, now Quarles & Brady. His practice was at first wide-ranging, but over time it focused increasingly on his professional passion: trial law. He proved to be an exceptional advocate and was honored to have appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court twice. Larry ably represented many of Wisconsin's most venerable companies, from Miller Brewing to American Motors to M&I Marshall & Ilsley Bank. His integrity was legend. When asked by the CEO of one large company to represent his wife in their divorce, Larry agreed with a warning that he would have to zealously represent the wife's interests, and the ultimate settlement he negotiated caused the CEO to tell him, "I wanted you to represent her well, but not THAT well."
As remembered by a retired Quarles partner, "Larry mentored dozens of young lawyers at Q&B. A superb trial lawyer, he was also a great teacher. One of his strengths was letting 'the kids' hold the reins. He took me to the U.S. Supreme Court to argue the case of Rondeau vs. Mosinee Paper Corporation, and we sat at counsel table together."
"The most important thing Larry taught me is respect for the opposing counsel. David Beckwith of Foley & Lardner was on the other side of many of Larry's cases. They were friends and fought hard; each won and lost a few, and they practiced law with civility. I never forgot that."
When Milwaukee County condemned the privately held Milwaukee and Suburban Transport Company in order to bring transit under public control and offered to pay the owners only $1 million for their assets, the owners consulted Larry. He went to bat and got them $45 million. "That is the kind of result all lawyers dream of and vanishing few achieve," a former mentee and partner marveled.
As formidable an advocate as he was, even Larry's opponents liked him. With respect to the painful, politically difficult and protracted Milwaukee Public Schools desegregation case, an adversary could say of him forty years on that Larry is still remembered fondly by members of the opposing side. "We fought tooth and nail in the courtroom, but we always liked and respected Larry."
Even while managing a burgeoning law practice, Larry made time for community service. He served on the boards as chair or president of the Shorewood School system, Milwaukee Bar Association, United Performing Arts Fund, Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee, and Florentine Opera Company.
For decades as both board member and lawyer, he was an integral part of Summerfest, from its first mud-caked days to its metamorphosis into a lakefront jewel, and he was often confronted with unusual challenges. For one, he successfully sued the Grateful Dead for return of their contract deposit when they refused to step on stage in a thunderstorm, which mortified his Dead Head children. Another especially memorable festival task was bailing out the Native maiden from the city jail each day so she could return to the grounds to perform her bare-breasted dance.
Without question, Larry's greatest joy and satisfaction was his family.
Pat's and Larry's first Milwaukee home was an apartment above his father's distribution storefront at 35th and Galena. The couple soon moved to 53rd and Hampton, where he finished a bedroom himself to accommodate the next child. By the time a fourth child was expected, the need for more bedrooms was evident, so Larry secured his dream home on Shorewood Boulevard in Shorewood. Pat thought there were too many rooms to clean; nevertheless, there they remained for more than 50 years to raise Laura, Edward, Joan, Peter and Tom. Larry undertook nearly all the repairs and maintenance himself.
The din and demands generated by five children seldom perturbed Larry's calm and gentle demeanor. As a rule, he met his children's transgressions with some bemusement and a deep well of patient wisdom. As the children grew into young adults, he became a shameless braggart about all five. When each child married, their spouses, too, were enveloped in Larry's mantle of magniloquence.
Weekend mornings in those years were reserved for Larry's spiritual pursuits, which is to say 18 holes of golf on the fairways of Tripoli Country Club, where he successfully endured the ultimate test of his patience and calm. He made some of his closest friends in life both on the course and playing gin rummy or bridge after a golf round. Up until his passing, he was the longest-tenured member of the club. On the return home from the clubhouse, Larry would often stop at a bakery to buy a dozen sugary long johns, ostensibly to treat the kids, but also for his own pleasure.
Larry was supremely confident, yet unpretentious, and never much cared about things like cars and clothes. A proud veteran who eschewed foreign makes, he drove only American-made cars. For years this meant a big Ford station wagon and stolid Oldsmobile and Buick sedans. Loyalty to his distressed client led him to unforgettable American Motors models for his teenage drivers like the ungainly Pacer and diminutive Le Car. Similarly, he had no need for sartorial pretense. Larry favored off-the-rack suits and kept his dozens of clip-on ties, one as drear and forgettable as the next, tacked to a corkboard in his closet, ever a source of simultaneous wonder and dismay to his family.
In their later years, Pat and Larry took up residence at Eastcastle Place, where he continued his penchant for active involvement by serving as president of the residents' council and numerous committees, especially the garden committee. As Pat's health declined, Larry was her steadfast champion and untiring caretaker. After her death in 2016, he deeply missed his dance partner and dinner companion of 65 years, and for the first time in anyone's memory, his sadness showed. His family is indebted to the staff of Eastcastle and a devoted and merry band of residents who buoyed his spirits, especially when the COVID pandemic forced isolation from loved ones.
But it was time, he said. He yearned to see Pat, his beloved wife and favorite bridge partner, and his firstborn, Laura, who died much too soon in 2005. Now he can play another round on celestial links with departed son-in-law Rich. Now he can set down at last the uncounted burdens he carried for so many throughout his 93 years. Larry departed life as gently and gracefully as he had lived it, grinning often in his last hours and chuckling as his children and grandchildren chatted and shared memories over FaceTime. From his hospice bed, he had a spectacular view of Milwaukee's downtown and lakefront, including the Summerfest grounds twinkling in the dark of a beautiful November evening.
He will be ever and sorely missed by son Edward of Milwaukee (Marcia Brooks); daughter Joan Chyko of Cedarburg (Richard, deceased); Peter of Shorewood (Sarah); and Tom of Wayland, MA, and by all his grandchildren ~ Henry, Edith, Nick, Daniel, Shelby, Zach, Isabella, Lane, Alex and Avery, all of whom cherished and revered their "Buppa."
When it is safe to gather again, Larry's family will hold a memorial in 202l. Meanwhile, gifts in lieu of flowers are suggested to Lawrence University, Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee, the American Cancer Society or any other organization that friends and colleagues find meaningful to his memory.
Published by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel from Nov. 28 to Nov. 29, 2020.