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Veteran's life met war and celebrity as a pilot before death in coronavirus isolation

By RICK MCCRABB | Dayton Daily News | Published: May 27, 2020

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Lindsay Lewis said the last weeks of her father’s life must have resembled “a horror movie” to him.

Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, Doug Hammond, a 1961 Franklin High School graduate, lived in a memory care facility in Massachusetts. He was admitted to a hospital there on April 29 and tested positive for the coronavirus. Lewis said several dementia patients and staff members in the memory care facility tested positive for COVID-19 even though the residents were not permitted to leave.

Lewis, 44, said the hospital medical staff wore full personal protective equipment that must have made her father uncomfortable. She said just going to a restaurant can confuse those with Alzheimer’s.

“It had to be tough on him,” said his daughter, who added the family was not permitted to visit him in the hospital, though they communicated twice on Zoom. “They have no sense of where they are.”

Hammond died May 18. He was 77.

He was the third person in his immediate family to deal with Alzheimer’s. His mother, Alice Hammond, and wife, Kathy Hammond, had the disease, and he served as their primary caregiver. His mother died in 2012 when she was 98, and his wife dealt with disease for 15 years.

His wife died in December 2015, and he showed symptoms of Alzheimer’s a few months later. Hammond had told his family one day he’ would have the same fate.

“He was right,” his daughter said. “That’s pretty unfair.”

Hammond held numerous jobs, probably none more interesting than serving as helicopter pilot for Ray Kroc, longtime leader of the McDonald’s empire, his daughter said. Hammond flew Kroc as he surveyed possible sites for his next franchise, she said.

Hammond, a standout basketball and football player at Franklin High, is a member of the school’s athletic hall of fame. He played football at Otterbein College, where he graduated in 1965 with a degree in education.

Lewis said her mother graduated from Middletown High School, and her father stood her up on their first date after the Middies beat Franklin in a boys basketball game.

He was drafted in the U.S. Army in 1966 and deployed to Vietnam right after they married in 1967.

Lewis said one of her father’s favorite stories, and an event that “changed the trajectory of his life,” was about how he became a pilot. After he was assigned to be a cook, Hammond convinced his commanding officer he would be more valuable as an Army pilot.

He served in Vietnam for 13 months and was a platoon leader. As a gunship pilot, he flew a Huey Cobra helicopter. During this time Hammond was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star and many Air Medals, his daughter said.

After his service, he sold helicopters for Bell Helicopter. That’s when he met Kroc.

Hammond’s next career move took his family to Bolton, Mass. He was recruited by Ken Olsen, founder of Digital Equipment Corp., to start a flight department for the company. He ended up being Global Vice President of Administrative Services.

Hammond, an active outdoorsman, ran in numerous Boston Marathons during the early 1990s. Lewis said her father was steady, but not fast, so she referred to him as a “Clydesdale.”

He retired from Digital in 2000 when it was acquired and moved to Laconia, N.H. where he started another career at Channel Marine on Lake Winnipesaukee. While there, his wife’s Alzheimer’s started impacting her daily life and he dedicated himself to her care, his daughter said. She said her father slept on a twin mattress on the floor next to his wife’s hospital bed in a downstairs bedroom.

He is survived by a son, John Hammond; Lewis; and three grandchildren, Stephen “Finn” Lewis, Shea Lewis and Ashton Lewis.

Services will be held at a later time.

©2020 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)
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