Central Oregon

Hammack family reflects, one year after tragic loss

Culver man's sister talks on anniversary of firefighting accident

Family remembers Culver man, one year later

REDMOND, Ore. - A year ago,, John Hammack of Culver died after part of a burning tree fell on him in the Mt. Washington Wilderness while he helped fight a wildfire. On Friday, his sister tearfully reflected on the impact of the loss on their family

Hammack was known and loved by many in the Central Oregon community. He was raised in Sisters to love all things rodeo.

When NewsChannel 21 talked to his sister Friday afternoon, she recalled the moment she heard the devastating news from another family member.

"He said, 'Mom there's been an accident,'" Patty Hall-Toll said. "We were sitting here in the living room, visiting. I said, 'Oh, who got hurt?' He said, 'It's worse than hurt. Your brother John was killed."

It was Hall-Toll's son, Hammack's nephew, who broke the news. She remembers it vividly. 

"My mom was alive when it happened," Hall-Toll said. "She just died a few weeks ago, but it was hard on her too. To lose a child before you go is pretty traumatic."

Hall-Toll said Hammack was an amazing bareback rodeo rider. He even performed at venues like Madison Square Garden.

But what made him special can't be found on a resume or list of accomplishments.

"He'd give you the shirt off his back," Hall-Toll said. "You know, he loved kids, little kids -- he'd help them, if they were trying to learn to rodeo."

One year later, it's still a shock to those who loved him.

"I love him, and miss him," Hall-Toll said. "I wished he was back. His kids need him."

Hammack's son and nephews have taken up saddleback riding to carry on his legacy.

A week ago, it was announced that Hammack's name will among five added this year to the state's Fallen Firefighter Memorial in Salem. A ceremony is planned on Sept. 18.

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