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