David L. Hammer, 89, of Dubuque and Newton, passed away Thursday, Dec. 27, 2018. David was a lawyer, writer, world traveler, father, son, and a husband. A service of remembrance will be at 11 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 10 at the University of Dubuque, Blades Chapel. Burial will be in Honey Creek Friends Cemetery, New Providence, with his family at a later date. Flowers and condolences may be sent to Blades Chapel.
David was born in Newton June 6, 1929, the son of Neal and Agnes (Reece) Hammer. Since childhood he was a voracious reader, which launched his love of adventure. He attended Grinnell College where he met and fell in love with fellow student Audrey Anna Lowe. David graduated in 1952 and he and Audrey were married in the Grinnell College Chapel June 20, 1953. By his own account, he was “an indifferent student.” He firmly believed a dedicated reader could educate his or herself. He began law school at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., until he was drafted during the Korean War and served in the Army. Audrey graduated and taught school in both Kalona and Iowa City until David was released from service to complete his law program at the University of Iowa Law School, and was admitted to the practice of law in 1956. That year, David and Audrey established their first home in Dubuque where David joined the firm of O’Connor, Thomas, McDermott and Wright. He practiced much of his career associated with that firm, now known as O’Connor & Thomas.
In 1988, he left it and founded the law firm of Hammer & Simon, today known as Hammer Law Firm. David practiced before courts in Iowa and Illinois, as well as Federal Courts of multiple jurisdictions, including the United States Supreme Court. He held numerous positions including president of the Young Lawyers of Iowa, president of the Iowa Defense Counsel Association, delegate to the Defense Research Institute, president of the Dubuque County Bar Association, and member of the Iowa Academy of Trial Lawyers. More importantly, David was a master at the art of litigation and many plaintiffs, defendants and opposing counsel witnessed his expertise while deposing or cross-examining a witness. Although he shared his knowledge and legal practice skills with many young attorneys as a mentor and teacher, his children were also familiar with the sweep of his brilliant questioning methods in the home discipline setting, and they made every effort to sidestep it as youths.
David was a writer of mostly non-fiction books, but especially favored writing poetry and penned two novels in his lifetime. He created his books not only at home in the evenings and on weekends, but also scribbling ideas and poetry in the margins of church programs during Sunday morning services when bored with the sermons, and even while litigating cases. During the more mundane portions of a trial, he was often seen writing the beginnings of a future book on his yellow legal pad. In all, David authored 26 books and in the process founded his own publishing company, Gasogene Press.
Many of his books involved tracing the factual locations of the fictional Sherlock Holmes. David is considered one of the foremost American authorities on Sherlock Holmes, the detective created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. David was a member of the Baker Street Irregulars, an exclusive organization devoted to Sherlock Holmes, and regularly traveled with Audrey to meet with these fellow enthusiasts and scholars. David’s extensive Holmes writings are internationally recognized and enjoy a place of honor at the Holmes Collection at the University of Minnesota, and on the shelves at the University of Iowa Law School Library.
In support of his research and writing and for their personal pleasure, David and Audrey regularly traveled to England and other countries to follow the path of Sherlock Holmes. He often stated, “The law benefits writers in allowing them to deduct their expenses,” as if he needed a reason to travel, as David was a traveler from an early age. He ultimately visited six of the seven continents, including the Antarctic, on a trip planned by Audrey late in their life together. During all these travels, art, literature, photographs and many friendships were gathered, together with stories that were later shared in his talks and many books. At home, slideshows, popcorn, and stories from both parents following their trips inspired a love of travel in all three children.
David was active in his community from the local to the global stage. He was a volunteer and board member, and supported many organizations including the Linwood Cemetery Association, the Dubuque Museum of Art, the Finley Hospital Board of Directors and Foundation Board, the United Way Campaign Chair, the Carnegie Stout Library Board and the First Congregational Church, among other interests.
In 1969, he and Audrey designed and built a home for the family and the various resident dogs. In his later years, and in particular after Audrey’s death Dec. 28, 2011, David relied upon the love and support of his children, his grandchildren, his beloved dachshund Rike and the grand-dogs, as they were known to the family. This home remained his favorite refuge the remainder of his life to his last days.
Following Audrey’s passing, David was blessed to reconnect closely with his childhood friend, Carol Soderblom from Newton. Carol and David grew up in Newton and attended school there together as children and even took their first piano lessons from the same teacher. They were married Aug. 12, 2013, on the Queen Mary II ship in a ceremony performed by the captain following their lengthy trip through Europe, despite being in their middle 80s. They returned to Dubuque and the family home on Laurel Street. Carol and David were excellent companions and spent many hours together in the study watching classic movies, sharing spirited conversation and Carol’s excellent meals, and reading poetry aloud to each other, a pattern which they kept to as closely as possible in the closing chapter of their life together, which beautifully completed the circle for both of them by their return to Newton as David’s health failed. Carol and David were dedicated to each other, and Carol was a steadfast and loving companion and advocate to the end of his days.
As an erudite person, David encouraged everyone around him to think for themselves; to continuously cultivate insight and knowledge by pursuing every possible route leading to that personally designed pathway to knowledge; and to recognize that this quest for learning was a lifelong pursuit. He believed that this dedicated quest itself was perhaps even paramount to the education and information uncovered, discovered and learned along the way, no matter the method by which it was learned.
David’s much-loved second wife, Carol Soderblom Hammer, sadly and unexpectedly died two days after his own death, so he is survived by his daughter Julie Rae Hammer, former husband Paul Bly and grandson Graham Bly all of Iowa City; his son, David Lindley Hammer, wife Mary (Brown) Hammer, and grandsons Maxwell and Samuel Hammer all of Denver, Colo. He is preceded in death by others very dear to him including his parents, Neal and Agnes Hammer of Newton; his beloved first wife, Audrey Anna Hammer; and his treasured second daughter, Lisa Agnes Hammer. Special thanks and gratitude to the fine care he received at Park Centre, the Medical Surgery Unit at Skiff Hospital, and from Hospice Nurse Melinda at the close of his life. He will be missed.