Virginia “Ginger” Hamm

She may have been in the winter of her life, but autumn still came too soon.

Countless adult children across America lost their kindergarten teacher on September 9th. Ginger Hamm passed away at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan. from the effects of a life well-lived; she wore herself out. 

Virginia Elizabeth Hamm was a Green baby, born on April Fools Day, 1936, to Gene and Juanita Green in Olathe, Kan.  She would go on to inspire hundreds—thousands—of children during 39 years of herding the kindergarten.

Ginger had four great loves in her life, and the first was her son.  Ginger was an engaging, talkative woman and married young at 20.  In 1956 Larry was born and was the love her life until the day she died.  Adolescent cancer claimed him in 1974.  She never got over it and helped form a Lawrence, Kan. chapter of Compassionate Friends to provide help and friendship to those who have lost children. Then in 2001, Ginger, herself, was diagnosed with cancer.  The same oncologist who treated her son treated her, something she liked to brag about.  Ginger continued volunteering at that same oncology clinic at Lawrence Memorial Hospital for years afterward to offer support from her experiences.

Her second great love was education and her tenure as a kindergarten teacher. Ginger matriculated at the Kansas State Teachers College (now the Emporia State University) while married and pregnant, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in education in 1958.  During her studies, she earned a physical education credit, she boasted, for constructive rest.  That’s also called “napping.”  She went on to earn a master’s in education from the University of Kansas in 1972 and spent more than three decades alone teaching at Centennial Elementary School in Lawrence. 

Ginger became, through her years of dedication to teaching, an unintentional celebrity. Her students span generations of children who still remember her classroom as a second home. Rarely did she travel anywhere from a local gas station in Lawrence to either coast without former students recognizing her. What’s especially impressive is that she most often still remembered their names.

Ginger found her soulmate when she remarried in 1978 to Emory Hamm, her third great love.  And it was true serendipity.  They spent 42 years traveling (and shopping) non-stop, cross country, often via motorcycle. She liked to look at stuff, and he liked to drive around. Fast food, antique shops and slot machines never had better friends.   

She was beloved from either side of Kansas to the coasts by students, parents, patients, coworkers and staff from multiple generations. Lawrence Public Schools lists Ginger as a Master Teacher and she was inducted into the Kansas Teachers Hall of Fame in 1998.

More than nearly anything, Ginger adored her baby sister, Linda, and talked with her daily.  She was the fourth great love of Ginger’s life. 

Ginger is survived by her sister, Linda; her nephew C.B. and his wife Linda; her nephew Brad; and their accumulated children and their families. She specifically wished to ensure that Larry would not be forgotten. 

Visitation will be Sept. 20 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Warren-McElwain Mortuary, 120 W. 13th St., Lawrence, Kan.  A graveside service and burial will follow at 3 p.m. at the Johnson County Funeral Chapel & Memorial Gardens, 11280 Metcalf Ave., Overland Park, Kan.  Her family requests donations in lieu of flowers to the Compassionate Friends of Douglas County


30 Condolences

  1. Shelly Maas on September 14, 2023 at 7:43 pm

    My parents befriended Ginger and Emory, and my Mom loved her conversations with Ginger. I got to meet Ginger, and her and I talked about teaching, and I learned a lot from her. A wonderful woman and teacher, and she will be missed.

  2. Mary Higgins on September 15, 2023 at 12:46 am

    Ginger taught both my sons at Centennial School and then years later I volunteered with her at LMH. She always had a smile on her face . She will be missed by so many . RIP Ginger .

  3. Lori Reasoner on September 15, 2023 at 8:51 am

    All I think of is Love. May you rest in peace on your red rug with all your little friends. I hope they are not pecking on your shoulder and certainly hope they turned the light to green with they exited the bathroom. I love you.

  4. Dave Ridgway on September 15, 2023 at 9:55 am

    Larry and I were friends from kindergarten until he left us, the day after we graduated from Lawrence High. He has not been forgotten. I have fond memories of Ginger from time spent at their house during those years. My her family find peace during this difficult time.

  5. Cheryl Hunsinger on September 15, 2023 at 11:05 am

    Ginger was a volunteer at the oncology department when I was going through cancer. She always had a smile on her face and was a joy to talk to. She will be missed very much. Rest in peace you wonderful lady.

  6. Martha West on September 15, 2023 at 2:57 pm

    If every child had a teacher like Ginger Hamm, the world would be a better place. You can recognize her students by their respect for others, their fair and kind treatment of all, their willingness to help others, and their enjoyment of learning. I’m so thankful that my daughter had her as her teacher.

  7. Traci Edwards on September 15, 2023 at 6:23 pm

    She was my kindergarten teacher so very long ago. She was such a wonderful person, touched so many lives and will deeply missed

  8. Michelle (Lechtenberg) Mailand on September 15, 2023 at 6:42 pm

    Ginger Hamm was an incredibly loving foundation for young students entering the classroom. You were blessed if you met her, and lucky to be her pupil. Impressions she made on my 5 year old soul remain to this very day. What a beautiful obituary honoring her life and commitment to our community. Green light, your turn to go …🚦❤️

  9. Erica Patz (Hegeman) on September 15, 2023 at 10:22 pm

    I was a 6th grade teachers aid! I just loved her and helping our in her class room. I unfortunately never had her as a teacher, we moved in to that schools zone when I was a 1st grader. My brother and sister were lucky enough to get her! She had a stop light sign that worked to tell others when the bathroom was occupied. He kindergarten classroom was one of a kind and one I wish still existed for my kids! Rest easy in the arms of the lord! Your touched many lives and the worlds a better place because of it! ❤️❤️

  10. Douglas Bell on September 16, 2023 at 6:45 am

    Mrs. Ginger Hamm to this day she was my favorite teacher. The memories of someone who touched your life at such a young age . I too wish my children could have experienced her as well. I remember she was the first teacher to refer to me as Mr. Bell (at 5 years old)
    God bless the family our prayers are for you during this time.

  11. Julia Unruh on September 16, 2023 at 8:00 am

    Mrs. Hamm was my kindergarten teacher in 1979. I remember her and her classroom vividly. She welcomed every student with open arms and handed out hugs all the time. Her empathy and fairness has influenced my daily life. For example, for the Halloween parade there were a few students that didn’t have costumes. In a few minutes she whipped up some cat ears and a tail out of black construction paper and used her rouge for a pink nose and eyebrow pencil for whiskers. She made herself into the mama cat and they were her kittens. Every student was important and every student had a voice. She was an amazing teacher and incredible human being. The world is a little dimmer without her bright shining light.

  12. Angie Nordhus on September 16, 2023 at 8:52 am

    I saw Mrs. Hamm a few years ago and could not help but to go up and tell her how much I appreciated her and loved having her as my Kindergarten teacher. She was one in a million! Peace be with you Mrs. Hamm, and prayers of support and comfort for your family and friends.

  13. Valerie Johnson-Powell on September 16, 2023 at 7:21 pm

    You were an amazing teacher and friend. I loved working with you and learning from you. Anthony was lucky to have started his education at Centennial with you and the other incredible teachers there.

  14. Alison Nye on September 16, 2023 at 11:01 pm

    Ginger Hamm was truly one of a kind.
    I first knew her as my youngest brothers kindergarten teacher ( 1967) . She made Colin want to rush to school to be the first to get to the big wooden trucks.
    Fast forward to 1982 Ginger was my kindergarten teaching mentor. I was moving to kindergarten. I called her during the summer and began asking her a few questions. She cheerfully offered to come over and visit. We spent all afternoon together as she reassured me and helped me plan out my first few weeks of school, helping me remember the things that really mattered.
    We crossed paths many many times over the years following.
    The last time I saw her was a few months ago at a doctors office. I was taking my parents and she arrived in
    a Senior Wheels van. I held the door for her and chatted as we walked in together. She still wore her smile but was quite honest about getting old and “ falling apart”.
    She missed Emory and she missed Larry.
    Ginger Hamm you were one special woman. I will never forget you or the way you made me feel.❤️

  15. Joyce Tallman on September 17, 2023 at 10:37 am

    I went to Centennial and Mrs.Hamm is a teacher that I remember fondly as well as her husband Emory. I have great memories of Centennial, skinned knees and all. Prayers go out to the family and all of her students that benefitted from her guidance!

  16. Marlene Ebeling on September 17, 2023 at 12:52 pm

    I taught 30 years with Ginger. We had so many wonderful teaching and working memories together. We retired together and remained best friends for the next 19 years. We were both excited when I recently decided to move in across the hall from her. I send my deepest sympathies to her sister and family.

  17. Dianna Nelson on September 17, 2023 at 7:17 pm

    Ginger became a mentor to me in my cancer journey. Luckily she was volunteering in Oncology the day of my first chemo, cheering me on and keeping track of my progress. We were later together in a wonderful cancer support group and celebrated our survivorship each year at Relay For Life (she always made sure she made a luminaria bag to light for Larry). After I retired I wanted to give back for my recovery and started volunteering in Oncology – being trained by Ginger was very fortunate for me. I remember with each season or holiday she shared colorful saved classroom decorations in the waiting room and hallways of the clinic which brightened everyone’s day. We worked different days in Oncology, but I also volunteered in Mario’s Closet on her day and she always took the time after her shift to come say hi and have a visit. She was a very special lady who I will never forget.

  18. Melanie Wallin on September 18, 2023 at 1:26 pm

    The best Kindergarden teacher, She was always happy and smiling, Even remembered me many, many years into my adulthood, You will be missed ! Melanie (Ward)

  19. Claude Eugene "Gene" Kean on September 18, 2023 at 2:16 pm

    Ginger and I have been life-long friends since we had acting parts together in the 5th and 6th grade. It was a privilege when I was asked to be the Best Man for her wedding with Emery Hamm 45 years ago in 1978. She was my son Joe’s kindergarten teacher. When I visited her and Emery, we always enjoyed sharing our lives growing up. We had things in common. We were born in the same week. I was 5 days older than Ginger who was born on April 1. Ginger remembered the magic act I performed in our 6th grade class, the beginning of a life-long hobby for me. More important, Ginger was beloved as a dedicated educator teaching kindergarten up to 40 years in Lawrence. Ginger must be respected by the hundreds and thousands of children she taught, and their parents, who remember how hard she worked as great teacher. Ginger and Emery grew a love together all the years to the time of his death. I will always remember Ginger.

  20. Laura-Mullin-Rogers on September 18, 2023 at 2:22 pm

    Mrs. Hamm was one in a million. She was my kindergarten teacher as well as so many. I remember her so fondly and always will . May your family find comfort and peace during this difficult time.

  21. Val Howland on September 18, 2023 at 2:29 pm

    Val Howland
    I we ass es so saddened to learn of Gingers passing. But then I had to smile as I remembered that though we will carry her light and love always in our hearts, Gingers light is now glowing in heaven with her beloveds.
    When I started teaching Kindergarten in Lawrence, Ginger took me under her wings and helped me feel more confident and comfortable in my chosen profession. Do or many years we had Kdgn meetings in various rooms within the district so we were able to interact and enjoy our friendship together often.
    My deepest sympathies to her family and Ginger will always have a special place in my heart..❤️

  22. Kiki Arevalo on September 18, 2023 at 8:05 pm

    I was blessed to have known Ginger many years ago when she was teaching at Centennial and my now ex-husband, Robert Arevalo, was the principal there. Our first daughter, Brooke was lucky enough to be in her kindergarten class. I remember Ginger as being enthusiastic, kind and so loving. I am sorry for the loss of this beautiful woman. God Bless you Ginger. In peace, Kiki Arevalo

  23. Rosie Robertson on September 19, 2023 at 3:13 pm

    What a wonderful soul.
    Sincere sympathy–Rosie Robertson

  24. Linda Stidham on September 19, 2023 at 9:16 pm

    I am very fortunate to have taught with Ginger. She had a very positive attitude toward everyone and could see the best in each person. She taught me that each child will learn at his own pace and that trying to force certain reading readiness deadlines on them did no good and would only lead to their frustration! Her classroom looked like a great place to play, but there was a lot of learning that took place in there. She had the respect of our teachers and principals through the years. If Ginger thought it was a good idea, then so did they.
    I remember the April Fool’s jokes we would play on her birthday, like turning a cake pan upside down and icing it, then singing to her and handing her a knife so she could cut us a piece. She was always a good sport and laughed as hard as we did.
    We will all miss her very much. May you rest in the peace you so deserve❤️

  25. Charles l kincaid on September 20, 2023 at 6:33 am

    Dear Emory. Thank you for making Mrs. Hamm Happy. Two of my kids went to Centennial and both were nervous the first day of school in first grade not having gone to Centennial for kindergarten. No matter Ginger met them both in the halls the very first day and from then on they were happy in Mrs. Hamm’s School. I think she is making Heaven a happier place now.

  26. Linda Stidham on September 20, 2023 at 8:44 am

    Not only did Ginger teach the kindergarteners at Centennial, she taught us, her fellow teachers, too. I learned many things from her about children being ready to read. She knew that forcing a reading readiness goal on a child would usually cause frustration…for both the child and the teacher. She also let her students make choices about their learning activity while learning how to treat one another with kindness.
    I remember her ability to laugh at herself when her April Fools Day birthday rolled around. One time we turned a cake pan upside down and iced it. Then we sang and handed her a knife to cut a slice…she laughed as hard as any of us!
    We loved you, Ginger! May you rest in the peace you so richly deserve❤️

  27. Linda Hall on September 21, 2023 at 5:15 am

    I met Mrs. Hamm when my son had her for a teacher. We became friends, I’m not even sure how that happened, but it did & we remained friends long after my son was out of kindergarten. ( she came to his wedding in 2009) There are very few people I have as much respect & admiration for. I always found it hard to call her Ginger. She was Mrs. Hamm all these years. Her kindness to children and ALL humans, was unmatched. I was honored and blessed to have her as a friend. RIP my dear, loving friend.

  28. Jim Turner on September 21, 2023 at 1:06 pm

    I taught 15 years. Was evaluated many times…the only evaluation I remember or care about was when Ginger informally shared with me what she thought about my skills….
    I’m sorry she’s gone, but also know a little piece of her lives on in hundreds of kids..
    That is a legacy I truly envy…

  29. Stephanie Weaver on September 21, 2023 at 4:02 pm

    Mrs. Hamm was my kindergarten teacher at Centennial, and I’ll never forget her. She had a kindness and grace that resounded with me and so many other students lucky enough to be in her classroom. My deepest condolences to her family and friends. She will live forever in our hearts.

  30. Anita Meyer on September 22, 2023 at 10:00 pm

    I can’t imagine a more loving, kind, gracious lady. I was a Centennial parent. Ginger was as caring and thoughtful to all parents as she was loving and patient with all her children.
    Her smile will not be forgotten. She will be missed but not forgotten.

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