February 7, 2020
Yesterday, we received the sad news that Ken Hammill has passed away. He was 91. His legacy and impact on our Guelph community is immeasurable, with widespread agreement that "Ken Hammill made Guelph a better place." He was also a longstanding Rotarian at our club, leaving his valued imprint on our organization, too.
Amongst his many, many achievements, Ken was a founding member of The Guelph Community Foundation so it was fitting for Chris Willard, our fellow Rotarian and current Executive Director of The Foundation, to provide a moving, personal tribute to the memory of Ken at our Rotary Club meeting. 
Click below to read Chris Willard's tribute.  Also see the wonderful tributes to Ken in Guelph Today, the Guelph Mercury Tribune, and the Mayor's Statement
Chris Willard's Tribute to Ken Hammill, on Friday, February 7, 2020 at the Rotary Club of Guelph
Statesman. Councillor. Leader. Businessman. Legend. 
All words I heard people use to describe Ken this morning, at the Mayor's State of the City annual address 
Before I had even met Ken Hammill I knew a few things about him…
I knew he was one of the founders of The Guelph Community Foundation and I also knew he was “Mr. Guelph”. A newspaper article was pinned to a corkboard in The Guelph Community Foundation’s entryway showed Ken riding a new watercycle in Riverside Park. The clipping was from the Guelph Mercury and dated 1967. It was this article that labelled Ken Hammill as Mr. Guelph.  
Guelph Mercury, July 13, 1967. This picture shows members of the Guelph board of parks commission who had the honour of taking the first cycle of the new six watercycles in Riverside Park. Pictured on the watercycles from left is Hugh Guthie, Ken Hammill and Ralph Smith.
I will miss Ken Hammill,  and he was a royal pain in the ass.
You see, once he got something in his mind he wouldn’t go away until he was happy with the results. 
Eileen would get her hair done weekly at the same time and, like clockwork, Ken would walk into my office and ask what we were going to solve this week. He put challenges in front of me that I hadn’t asked for and these challenges may or may not have been on my radar. It did not matter; we were going to solve them.
Ken cared deeply about this community. 
I intentionally went out of the office to avoid one of these meetings. My phone rang that afternoon: “I know what you were trying to do. I’ll see you next week. And don’t be late!”
Imagine Ken and I making a financial ask of a donor or sponsor. A cheque has just been written and I am so thankful I am ready to merrily skip out of the meeting – then Ken hands the cheque back with a smile, shakes his head and simply says, “You can do better.” 
See ... that was the magic of Ken. It didn’t matter whether or not you liked him. He pushed you to be your best and he was well respected.
It becomes clear when you try to do any research about Ken that he was passionate about community. Simply put, he believed in Guelph.
  • Guelph Hospital Foundation
  • Guelph Youth Music Centre
  • Guelph Y SHARKs program
  • McCrae House and the LCol John McCrae Statue
  • Guelph Community Health Centre
  • Guelph Sports and Entertainment Centre
  • Royal City Bandshell
  • Guelph Public Library
  • Guelph Soccer
  • University of Guelph
  • …and the list goes on and on…and then some more…
This morning Mayor Cam Guthrie shared a story about how Ken offered support and mentorship despite Cam not being Ken’s first choice for mayor. I challenge the notion of Ken mentoring people. He did not mentor people, he moulded them. 
He wouldn’t let me join Rotary when I first arrived in Guelph so that I could first learn the community focus on work. A year or two later, once Ken had made up his mind, he announced it was time for me to join Rotary. I had no option but to join Rotary. This Rotary. The Rotary Club of Guelph.  
The part that is missing from what you can easily find out online about Ken is that his family is what he was the most passionate about. His wife Eileen and “the kids”. Ken was proud of their accomplishments and was eager to share what they were up to and also happy to share what he thought was distracting them from work.  
The office or study that you so often met Ken inside at his home was a bit of a shrine. Eileen’s father’s hunting trophies, paintings of Eileen and an assortment of treasurers each which had their own story that Ken was happy to share.
It was just a few weeks ago that I visited Ken and Eileen with Geoff Vogt, CEO of the Guelph Y. Geoff asked “What can we bring you Ken?”
“A coffee for Eileen please. We haven’t been out of the house for while so, would you please bring me a chocolate milkshake?”
We spent an hour visiting and the only thing that Ken wanted to know was… what was going on in our community? He smiled, soaked it all in and drank his chocolate milkshake.
Ken never seemed comfortable speaking about death. He often phrased things like this… “Did you know, Mr. Smith has been promoted?” or “You know Chris, I won’t be here forever, so when I get promoted…”
He didn’t like to talk about the end of life but he was okay with being promoted.
So with that I say, congratulations on your promotion Ken! You will be missed.