Contributed by Linda Hamilton Schnacke
|Arnold Dean Hamilton|
Arnold Dean Hamilton, also known as “Ham” or “Hambone,” was born July 26, 1921 near Carey, Texas in Childress County. His parents, Nora Kelly, of Somervell County, Texas, and John Percy Hamilton, of Hood County, Texas, had moved to Carey less than one year earlier, where “Percy” began farming. Carey, Texas does not exist today.
By December 1923, Percy was not able to make a suitable living at farming, so they moved to nearby Childress, where Arnold’s sister, Jacqueline Inez, was born the following year. Working as a painter for Railroad shops for four years Percy got lead poisoning from the paint and was hospitalized for a month or more in Fort Worth. Arnold’s mother would take Arnold and “Jacque” on the train to Fort Worth to visit their father during this period.
In September 1927 the family moved to Fort Worth where Percy worked for McCauley Grain Company for 1½ years, and then he worked for American National Insurance Company for some period of time. Percy’s health deteriorated, and he was unable to hold down a job for any length of time. They were living at the Cotter Place in River Oaks on Roberts Cut-Off.
In 1928 while Arnold was in the 1st grade in River Oaks (Fort Worth), his first grade teacher, Irma Marsh, caught Arnold and other children on a hill watching a dirigible land over Lake Worth. This may have been the seed for his love of flying. (Irma Marsh later became the superintendent of the Castleberry School System.)
In January of 1930 when Arnold was in the 2nd grade, the family moved to Granbury, Texas in Hood County. Percy took odd jobs working where work was available, sometimes as far away as Lamesa. During the fall of 1936, ill with pneumonia, Percy returned home to Granbury, where he died two weeks later with Arnold, age 15, at his side, holding his hand.
During the next few years, Arnold was baptized in the Baptist Church in Granbury, graduated from Granbury High School (1939), and received his Driver’s Instruction Permit (also in 1939).
In 1940 Nora, Arnold, and Jacque moved to Stephenville, Texas, where Nora built a house. She ran a boarding home while Arnold attended John Tarleton State College (now part of Texas A&M) for 2½ years. He spent his summers working in the oil fields in Louisiana for the Texas Company (Texaco) under the oversight of his uncle, Luther Kelly, of Houma, Louisiana.
In the summer of 1940, Arnold tried to enlist in the Navy, but was told he needed a birth certificate. When he wrote his mother asking her to send the birth certificate, he learned that his name the birth certificate read “Robert Truman Hamilton.” Nora filed an affidavit in Fort Worth on June 19, 1940 for a corrected birth certificate.
On July 6, 1941 Arnold went to the New Orleans Army Air Corps office to sign up for the “20 year old” draft and was sworn in by 5:00 p.m. While waiting to be called, he went back to the Louisiana oil fields and spent some time in rescue efforts for ships sunk by the Germans in the Gulf of Mexico. He recalled that one morning before 5:00 a.m., he heard the Port Texaco (an old World War I ship used to store oil) blown out of the water. In December he returned to the New Orleans Army Air Corps office to check on his status. They had misplaced his file and finally found it attached to someone else’s file. Then waiting to be called, he went to San Antonio looking for a job without any luck and eventually returned to the oil fields in Bay St. Elaine, Louisiana working for the Texaco Company.
In January 1942 Arnold was assigned to the Aviator Cadet Center in San Antonio, Texas. He caught the flu, was hospitalized for two weeks, and missed the opportunity to join his assigned cadet class. He was rescheduled for a later class and again returned to the oil fields in Louisiana. His U.S. Coast Guard identification card, dated June 18, 1942, shows his occupation as cook’s helper.
From February to December 1943, Arnold attended Aviation Cadet Training at Brooks Field, class of 43-K, in San Antonio, Texas. From 1944 until April 1945 he was an Aviator Instructor at Waco, Texas.
In March 1945 Arnold was sent to Naples, Italy where he flew C-47s. When the war ended, he was sent to Wiesbaden, Germany for 6 months. In 1946 he was discharged and returned home to Fort Worth.
In 1946, unable to find suitable employment, Arnold re-enlisted as a Tech Sergeant repairing B17 engines, and soon applied for Control Tower Operator School located at Austin, Texas. Soon thereafter, he was recalled by the U.S. Air Force as a First Lieutenant. Also in 1946, he married Valera Marie Thomason in Fort Worth.
By 1953 Arnold was in Oklahoma City attending FAA school. During the Korean War (1953-1954), he was stationed on Johnston Island in the mid-Pacific overseeing control tower operations. Later stops were:
1954-1955 Omaha, Nebraska.
1955-1956 Wichita, Kansas.
1956-1959 Stephenville, Newfoundland; Harmon AFB.
1959-1962 Jacksonville, Arkansas; Little Rock AFB.
1962-1963 Las Vegas, Nevada; Nellis AFB and Indian Springs Test Site.
In the summer of 1963 Arnold retired from the U.S. Air Force as a Major after 22 years service.
During 1963-1964 Arnold attended Stephen F. Austin College in Nacogdoches, Texas.
From 1964 to 1984 Arnold worked for the U.S. Post Office in Fort Worth as a letter carrier. In the fall of 1984 he retired from the U.S. Post Office after 20 years.
Both Arnold’s wife, Valera, and his sister, Jacque, died in December 1984. In August 1985, he married Mrs. Martha Bayse Wininger.
Arnold had a real green thumb. He loved to keep a vegetable garden whenever he could when he was in the military service. When he bought his house on Schilder in Fort Worth, he converted half of the back yard into a vegetable garden that he tended lovingly for the rest of his life. His daughter is also a gardener and attributes her love for gardening to Arnold and her mother.
While Arnold was in the service, every visit to Fort Worth included a visit to the zoo, including a ride on the little zoo train and visits to “Nana,” his mother, “Gram,” Valera’s mother, Grandpa Hamilton (his grandfather) in Granbury, and the Granbury Cemetery where his father was buried. After his children were grown, he continued the tradition of going to the zoo and riding the little train (with a snowcone treat at the stop) with his grandchildren, going several times a year. His daughter’s children attended (pre-school) Museum School at the Museum of Science and History, each for two years. Their mother would take them, and Arnold would pick them up, taking them to get a hamburger at McDonald’s afterwards. Granddaughter Ruth remembers many visits to the McDonald’s on the Jacksboro Highway and playing in the playground. Grandson Alan remembers Arnold taking them to the apartments on his mail route to swim.
Arnold was a builder, too. When he lived in Austin, Texas, he built a playhouse for his children. When the family lived in Newfoundland, he enclosed part of the attic and built a playroom for his children. The second year there, temperatures reached -20°F., and he made an ice skating rink and an igloo in the front yard. When his son, John, lived in Arlington, he built a playhouse for John’s children, Diane and David. When his daughter, Linda, lived in Azle, he built a tree house for Linda’s children, Alan, Ryan, and Ruth.
Through the years, Arnold was very good about visiting his aging aunts, uncles, and cousins, continuing to visit them until he was no longer able to drive.
In early March 2000 Arnold learned that he had pre-leukemia and on April 13th was formally diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia. On Palm Sunday, when asked if there was anything we could do for him, he said, “Pray.” His grandson, Ryan, started a prayer and Arnold finished it, asking for forgiveness of his sins. In later conversations, Arnold said that he regretted that anger had kept him from attending church services, and that he should have spent more time at church and in prayer. From that day forward, he continued to pray for forgiveness of his sins.
On Wednesday, July 19, 2000 about 3:30 a.m., Arnold went into a peaceful comatose sleep and passed away Thursday, July 20, 2000 about 1:15 a.m. at his home.
Arnold Hamilton is survived by:
Wife: Martha Hamilton
Daughter: Linda Hamilton Schnacke and husband: Dick Schnacke, Jr.
Alan Schnacke, and wife: Michelle Schnacke
daughter: Allison (18 months old)
Ryan Schnacke and wife: Glenda Schnacke
Son: John Hamilton and wife: Joyce Hamilton
Diane Hamilton Moore
Note: David, Leah, and Laura wrote their grandfather’s following obituary:
FORT WORTH — Arnold Dean Hamilton, 78, who retired from the U.S. Air Force and the Post Office, was a U.S. Air Force Pilot, flight instructor, air traffic controller and letter carrier, died Thursday, July 20, 2000, in Fort Worth. Graveside service: 10 a.m. Thursday in Greenwood Memorial Park. Memorials: Christ’s Haven Childrens Home, PO Box 467, Keller, TX 76244; Vitas Health Care of Texas, 1501 Parkview Drive, #600, Fort Worth, TX 76102.
Arnold Dean Hamilton was born July 26, 1921, in Carey. He was a 20-year active member of the United States Air Force. He served in World War II, possessing staunch integrity, with a deep sense of purpose, a fierce constitution, as well as an uncanny ability to bring forth laughter and smiles. He loved to take his children and grandchildren to the Fort Worth Zoo, and he never met a stranger. He loved his family, his country, and his God.
Survivors: Wife, Martha Hamilton; son, John Hamilton and wife, Joyce; daughter, Linda Schnacke and husband, Richard; grandchildren, Alan, Ran and Ruth Schnacke, Diane, David, Leah, and Laura Hamilton; and great-grandchild, Allison Schnacke.
Forest Ridge Funeral Home Hurst, 285-7777
Fort Worth Star-Telegram