(August 11, 1919 - March 11, 2008)
The Lusk Herald
March 19, 2008
Viola "Toots" Hammer
Funeral services for Viola "Toots" Hammer, 88, were held at 2 p.m. March 19, 2008 at the Congregational Church in Lusk. She passed away March 11, 2008 in Torrington after suffering sudden cardiac arrest.
Viola was the daughter of James A. and Amy E. (Smith) Payne, and was born August 11, 1919 in the Cedar Top community 15 miles east of Glendo the second of five children. She was given the nickname "Toots" by her Grandmother Smith shortly after birth, and the name became the one she went by. She attended school in the Cedar Top community and completed eighth grade, as was customary at that time.
She married Malcolm (Mike) Hammer on Jan. 4, 1938 in Wheatland. They leased various places in the Cedar Top Community until they purchased their own ranch in 1944. They were the parents of three sons, David, who died in infancy, and Marvin and Louis. They resided there until 1960 when the Meadowdale School closed, and they moved to Lusk to ensure the boys would receive a good education.
While her children were in elementary and junior high school, she not only took them to school each day, but also filled her station wagon with children from all over town, providing free transportation to and from school for them. In addition she faithfully served as a surrogate parent for children in school who had no parents in attendance for special programs. She also loved to provide treats of her homemade fudge to the teaching staff. When her children were in high school she drove the Van Tassel school bus and the bus transporting eighth grade students from the junior high to the high school for vocational classes.
Toots was always one to help others in whatever way she could. For a number of years she made sure that several of Lusk's elderly residents had their mail on a daily basis and were provided transportation to the grocery store and drug store as needed.
She was one of the gifted people who had the ability to witch water wells and was proud of her accomplishment of locating water in the far pasture that had not had any water source in it. She was able to say she never witched a well on her own place that didn't produce water. She was also very proud of the Shorthorn cattle the family raised and loved to see the wide array of colors in the calf crop each spring. Her life revolved around the ranch work after her children were grown. She was truly a ranch wife who did more than her share of haying, feeding, and other work to make the ranching operation successful.
Failing eyesight from macular degeneration forced her to give up reading, which she loved to do. A fall, which resulted in a broken ankle in 2004, forced her to use a walker to get around, but it didn't keep her from being active. She was always ready to go along to check water in the cow pastures. She enjoyed riding with Marvin or his family members when they substituted on the Jay Em mail route. Complications from congestive heart failure slowed her down more the last nine months. Even then, she did what she could in maintaining the house. She also was able to give hours of attention to her constant companion, Charlie the cat.
She was preceded in death by her parents, two brothers, Howard and Clarence (Bud) Payne, two sisters who died in childhood, her husband, and her son, David. She is survived by her son Marvin and his wife Joyce of Lusk, son Louis of Lusk, two granddaughters, Amy Hammer, and Martha Eddy and her husband John, and their children Kolby and Samantha.
Memorials may be directed to the Niobrara County Library Foundation or a charity of the donor's choice. Pier Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
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