Pete Hammond was a unique human being. Friend. Mentor. Entrepreneur. Author. Rascal. Anyone who ever heard his laugh will never forget it. And Pete laughed a lot.
I first met Pete in the fall of 2000 when he and I were speakers at a Business as Mission conference in Seattle. After he sat through my ethics seminar, I listened to him exposit Hebrews 11. How could anyone, I wondered, find so much humor in that text? Afterwards, we had coffee and a friendship was born.
That’s how Pete operated. At ease with nearly everyone, he searched for a common interest, and then he used it as a relational seed. From there, he watered the ground with visits, calls, and notes. His capacity for connecting with people was almost endless.
Pete’s care for others was perhaps best illustrated at InterVarsity’s 2007 Fall Leadership Meeting. At a dinner for forty senior leaders, the outpouring of love for Pete was simply overwhelming. By my estimate, nearly half of those present said things like: “But for Pete, I would have left the Fellowship years ago.” “When I was down-hearted, Pete came alongside and lifted me.” And, “Pete championed multiethnicity at a time when it wasn’t popular to do so.”
Pete wore many hats during his four decades of service to the Fellowship — regional director, director of Evangelism, director of Ministry in Daily Life, and Interim vice president of Advancement, to name a few.
As significant as Pete’s contributions were within the Fellowship, I suspect that his greatest impact was external. Everywhere I went, key Christian leaders seemed to know InterVarsity through him — Christianity Today, Presbyterians for Renewal, various marketplace ministries, Christian colleges, the Billy Graham Association.
As Pete moved towards retirement, he and I went on several trips to transfer some of his key relationships to me. Everywhere we went, faces lit up as he entered the room.
Pete brought joy. And a tad bit of mischievousness. I will never forget our visit to a dear friend who runs a tourist attraction in Alabama. Pete jumped on a motorized toilet seat. I followed and the race was on. Pete always claimed that I won by cutting him off, but I dispute his recollection.
When the love of Pete’s life – Shirley – passed away in October 2007, he grieved deeply. After six decades of being in love (including 49 years of marriage), Pete’s soul had a deep hole.
Pete’s passing is bittersweet. On the one hand, he is now with the Lord. Reunited with Shirley. On the other hand, I – like many others – will sorely miss him. He touched my life in ways I’m only now beginning to realize.
A memorial service for Pete Hammond was held Saturday, January 10, 2009, at Christ Presbyterian Church in Madison, Wisconsin.
A Service of Remembrance was held on Monday, January 12, 2009, at the National Service Center. To listen to or download the audio from that service click here.
Obituary from the Wisconsin State Journal