Jerry Hammes

Jerry Hammes, and his wife, Dorene, share a laugh. The couple has been married for 62 years, and remain quite devoted to each other. As Jerry says: "Nothing good happens in talent, time and treasury without my wife's concurrence and advice.''

The term "lifetime achievement'' might imply the final chapter has arrived.

Jerry Hammes is the Daily Journal Lifetime Achievement Award winner for 2016, but that doesn't mean the contributions he has made to earn the honor are nearing the end.

On the contrary, his many activities, including the philanthropic work he does in association with his family, has continued for generations, and will do so in the present and future. Now 85, it's safe to say his legacy will live on long after his time on earth has passed.

"It started early, and has not ended yet,'' Hammes said of a tradition of giving originally established by his father, Romy Hammes, who came to Kankakee from Wisconsin in 1926 to manage a Ford automobile dealership and eventually built a business empire which also included banking and real estate development.

"Wherever there is a need and we see that need, we say 'yes.'''

What exactly has the Hammes family, which includes Jerry's devoted wife, Dorene, said yes to? The answer has been given so many times, it's almost impossible to track all of it, but here are some highlights:

• Peoples Bank of Kankakee County, now led by president Jeff Hammes, Jerry's son, established the Hammes Family Scholarship Program in 1996. It allows students, including students from designated Kankakee County high schools, to apply for scholarships to attend Kankakee Community College, Olivet Nazarene University or the University of Notre Dame. Since its inception, 248 students from 53 schools have received a combined $918,911 to attend college. Ninety-two of those recipients have come from Kankakee County, and a new group of recipients are being considered for this school year.

• Beginning with Notre Dame, the family has established bookstores on campuses throughout the country. They include Olivet, KCC, Bishop McNamara Catholic High School, Marmion Academy (Jerry is a 1949 graduate), Holy Cross College, Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, Nev., and the Stanley Clark School in South Bend, Ind.

All of these stores are named for the Hammes family, and Jerry said there is a reason why they invest in them.

"It all started with my mother [Dorothy] and father, who decided they wanted to provide revenue for Notre Dame,'' he said. "A library is a revenue source if ran properly. That revenue can be used toward scholarships.''

• A devout Catholic family, the family has given countless dollars toward building churches, schools and helping the faith community in other ways. St. Teresa Church, located on Kankakee's east side, is the earliest example. Romy Hammes helped found the church in 1949, and the parish remains vibrant today. So does the Hammes family's fondness for it.

"We try to help our churches,'' Jerry said. "We're very proud of St. Teresa.''

• The philanthropy also extends to the local Catholic school system. In addition to the bookstore and the scholarships, the Hammes family has aided Bishop McNamara and its feeder schools in other ways. In 2008, the Dorothy and Romy Hammes Hall of Honor was established at the school. It honors alumni, faculty and others who have made significant contributions to the school.

Although he has kept a residence in South Bend most of his adult life, Jerry still is proud to call his native Kankakee home, and shows that pride by remaining so connected.

"It's no secret to my friends and business associates,'' he said. "They know my hometown is Kankakee.''

That hometown pride has meant much to the city, as former Kankakee Mayor Donald Green can attest. Green has been a member of the board of directors of Peoples Bank for 37 years, and throughout that time, has come to know the family well.

"How lucky can a community be?'' Green said of the Hammes presence. "Jerry is a Kankakee native and a real benefit to Kankakee. The Hammes family loves Kankakee. Period.''

John Bowling, the president of Olivet, has long admired Jerry and his family, and in 2013, the university presented him and his wife with an honorary degree for support of the institution.

"I think Jerry embodies the best in human life,'' Bowling said. "His interest is for the broad spectrum.''

An example can be found in the improvement of the relationship between various faith groups in the community, particularly among Nazarenes and Catholics, two groups that once shared some misgivings.

The relationship began to change when Romy Hammes and former Olivet President Harold Reed became good friends, and has only continued with the succeeding generations.

When Bowling informed Jerry Hammes of the honorary degree, he wondered if the university's governing board would accept the idea. Bowling put his concerns to rest.

"Our board of trustees made it a unanimous choice,'' Bowling said. "I love the fact he's a devout Catholic. We have many more similarities than differences.''

As his son, Jeff Hammes has perhaps the most keen perspective on his father. He long ago discovered Jerry holds the most basic yet admirable human qualities.

"He's an optimist,'' the younger Hammes said. "The glass is always half full.

"His name is on a lot of things but he's a humble guy. Philanthropy is something in his blood. He doesn't look to grandstand. He just wants to set an example for others.''

His work ethic sets one of those examples. Jerry makes it clear he is not retired, and still reports to his office in South Bend every morning to attend to his many business interests.

"He keeps going to work everyday. He and my mom have never spent their winters in Florida like many of their friends,'' Jeff said.

Along with treasure, Jerry Hammes has given much of his time to worthy causes. The number of boards he has sat on are many, and that includes many years of involvement with the Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. Those efforts have only widened his positive influence.

As Bowling puts it: "A life well lived casts a long shadow.''