LIMA — They grew up during the Great Depression and came of age during World War II and Korea. When their children, the Boomers, strained the resources of their Catholic parishes and parish schools in the 1950s, they stepped in to help.
They were the moms who staffed the school cafeteria, helped with bingo nights and made the spaghetti for countless dinners. Luella Hammill could have been their poster girl, a Rosie the Riveter for the Altar and Rosary Society, although her contributions were noted mostly in small news items on the inside pages of The Lima News.
When the St. John’s Altar and Rosary Society held its annual Christmas dinner in December 1952 in the parish hall, complete with miniature Nativity scenes as table decorations, Hammill was chairman of the dinner committee. Nearly seven years later, in March 1959, she was on the planning committee for the society’s St. Patrick’s Day ham dinner in the new parish hall. A decade later, in November 1969, she worked the kitchen at the annual parish spaghetti dinner. Between, before and for years after those events, Hammill was involved in planning or working at parish dinners, dances and festivals.
When she died at 97 on July 23, 2014, The Lima News wrote a thumbnail biography. “Luella was a member of Delphos St. John’s Parish as a child and Lima St. John’s Parish through her adult life. She served the church in many different ways during her life. She was a lector and an officer and member of the Altar and Rosary Society and the church choir. She and John (her husband) were very involved in the church bingo program that ultimately evolved to LCC bingo.”
Hammill also was an avid bowler and found time to run a private catering business, although, as she told Hope Strong of the News for a Jan. 23, 1973, story, she didn’t work on Sundays; Sundays were for family. “I don’t like to take a job on Sundays,” she said. “It’s Johnny’s one day off.”
Hammill was born May 14, 1917, in Delphos, the daughter of Louis H. and Luella Fox Moenter. She graduated from Delphos St. John’s High School in 1935.
“Luella had not always planned to be a superior cook,” Strong wrote in 1973. “A native of Delphos and graduate of Delphos St. John’s High School, she started after graduation working for Dr. and Mrs. H.C. Weisenbarger, then for Mr. and Mrs. John Galvin.”
Galvin, who died in 1974, was co-founder of the Ohio Steel Foundry and instrumental in bringing a campus of The Ohio State University to Lima.
“As Luella recalled, ‘The Galvins before World War II had fantastic dinner parties like two times a week and the guests wanted to come formal. We would serve five course dinners from soup to, yes, the final nuts,’” Strong noted.
In April 1943, she joined the Navy’s WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service), becoming, not surprisingly, a cook. “With the war,” Strong wrote, “Luella did her bit and joined the WAVES for 2 ½ years, serving much of the time as the head chef of the Tabard Inn in Washington, D.C., where Naval officers had breakfast and dinner. And, during the ‘big war’ she met John Hammill, also in the Navy.”
John Hammill, a native of Des Moines, Iowa, and Luella Moenter were married May 12, 1945. “They considered it an honor to be married at the Navy Communication Chapel in Bethesda, outside of Washington, D.C.,” the News wrote in 2014. John Hammill died April 17, 2003.
After her discharge, although the owner of the D.C. inn wanted her to stay as manager, Hammill returned to the Galvin household while her husband completed his Navy obligation. “I worked until my family started. Then I had to go part time, and I guess that’s how I started catering,” Hammill told Strong.
That family included two sons, Jack and Thomas, and a daughter, Judy. The family eventually settled into a home on Fairview Avenue, becoming stalwarts in the parish and a force in local bowling circles. “They are active in St. John’s Catholic Church and Lima Central Catholic Band Boosters with Luella in the Altar and Rosary Society and two bowling leagues also serving as secretary for one,” Strong wrote.
And, she was a pretty good bowler. “Mary A. Thompson dropped 562 pins in Sohio Ladies League action with 215 for a high game,” the News reported Sept. 27, 1964, adding, “Luella Hammill did her seven pins better Thursday in the S&J Ladies League at 20th century with a 569 set and 221 high game.”
Mrs. Hammill’s son, Jack, bowling columnist for the News, listing the top events of the bowling season in an April 2003 column, couldn’t help mentioning his mother. “Part of me wanted to be a total homer and rate this higher. Clearly this was the greatest day of the season for Mom, well, it was the greatest day at the lanes ever. Luella Hammill was honored by the SJ Ladies League, 20th Century Lanes and the LDWBA for 50 years of excellence.”
Reach Greg Hoersten at firstname.lastname@example.org.