In Memory

Br. John Hamman

Br. John Hamman

Brother Hamman died on December 5, 2000, at age 73 and after 56 years as a Marianist. He was a a popular English teacher at Saint Mary's as well as an accomplished magician. His skill with sleight of hand was developed as he underwent physical therapy to mitigate the effects of polio, which he contracted in 1952.

John Charles Hamman, born September 3, 1927, in St. Louis, Missouri, was one of two boys and a girl in the family of Godfrey and Olivia (Ruoff) Hamman. The Loretto and St. Joseph Sisters taught him at St. Luke and St. Rose grade schools before he entered McBride High School in September 1941. Influenced by Fr. John G. Leies and by his older brother Donald, who was already a Marianist candidate, the young John became a postulant at Maryhurst in 1942. He pronounced first vows at Marynook in Galesville, Wisconsin, on August 15, 1945, and final vows on July 10, 1951. In 1995 he celebrated the 50th anniversary of his religious profession as a Marianist.

Bro. John was awarded a bachelor's degree in education from the University of Dayton in 1948 and an M.A. in English from St. Louis University in 1963. In the fall of 1948 he began his teaching career at Central Catholic High School in San Antonio where he taught English. A year later he was assigned to St. Michael's High School in Chicago where he stayed for two and a half years. In January 1952 he was assigned to DeAndreis High School in St. Louis for the spring semester. Following this brief assignment, Brother John went to Coyle High School in August 1952. Shortly thereafter, in October of the same year, he was diagnosed with a severe case of polio. He spent two years at Maryhurst recuperating.

Subsequently he was able to teach on a limited schedule. He was assigned to St. Mary's High School in 1954. After seven years,he returned to Central Catholic High School for a year before going to Vianney High School in 1965. He was able to continue teaching there until he retired in 1986. Due to declining health and congestive heart failure, he was assigned to the Marianist Residence in San Antonio in 1995.

Earlier in his life, Bro. John had been a good athlete. His spirit and his great interest in education enabled him to keep going. In the secondary schools where he taught he was the English department chair. He expressed his artistic gift in sketches to enhance the literature courses, and he moderated yearbooks and school papers. Bro. John became world renowned in the realm of magic, an interest and skill he had been developing from his youth. He spent hours during his recuperation from polio learning, practicing and inventing card tricks and other magic involving slight of hand. He was a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians and the Society of American Magicians.

He authored books and videos on the subject. He was in demand on local, national and international levels to display his prowess and ability. Brother was the only living magician among the 12 who were honored in 1995 with the first St. Louis Magical Heritage Awards - in effect, a hall of fame of local conjurors. Bro. John was called the "Magical Marianist." At that time he stated the key to his success, "The object of magic is misdirection. Audiences are more apt to believe what they hear than what they see, and intelligent people are the easiest to fool because they don't expect me to use some childish gimmick to deceive them. On the other hand, children are hard to fool, because they watch closely and don't listen." Bro. John created more than 100 card magic tricks.