Hammond B. Davis served his country in World War II and beyond, but Alzheimer's disease would be his last battle.
“Unlike his other military assignments, he would not be returning,” the Gainesville native’s June 2016 obituary stated. “His work on Earth is done.”
“He was a lovely man who loved his country dearly,” daughter Paula Stubbs said of her father.
Even as his family still mourns his passing, granddaughter Christi Tasker is honoring Davis through a fundraiser in Texas — a home design project known as the Dallas Decorators Showhouse.
Traditional Home magazine is teaming up with Donna Moss of HGTV to open to the public a nearly 8,000-square-foot, impeccably designed and built home, with proceeds going to the Alzheimer’s Association of North Central Texas.
Tasker’s business, Tasker Agency, serves as the executive production company behind the showcase.
The original charity was A Wish With Wings, which is part of Make A Wish Foundation, but that organization had recently benefited from another showcase.
“So, we went back to the drawing board,” said Tasker, a Gainesville native and a 1994 West Hall High School graduate.
The builder, whose mom had been recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, suggested the
“He knew that my grandfather had passed away (from the disease) just a month prior,” Tasker said.
The disease certainly hit home with Tasker and her family.
“My mom, aunt, uncle and three caretakers is what it took to take care of my grandfather,” she said. “It was around-the-clock care.”
Tasker said she believes he may have started showing symptoms of the disease about a decade before he died.
She recalled him driving to Atlanta and “swerving (the car) over and almost causing a major accident.”
Then, on another occasion, Davis drove himself home after a shopping trip, but drove for hours before reaching home.
“My grandmother didn’t want to believe he had this terrible disease and … he would come back,” Tasker said. “About 4-5 years before he died, she finally realized there was no turning back.”
Her grandmother, Martha Davis, died in February 2016.
The couple was married 68 years, and it was Hammond’s Army service that would take the family around the world.
He served in Germany, Ethiopia, Turkey, Mexico, Lebanon and Thailand.
Retired from the Defense Attaché, Davis was part of an “elite group of men who had 24/7 communication with the president of the United States,” his obituary states.
“He decoded Morse-code messages, along with many other things, that remained a secret,” Tasker said.
Stubbs, who lives in South Hall, recalled a second-grade assignment in which she had to describe what her father did.
“I asked dad and he told me he couldn’t tell me, so I wrote that on my paper and I got an F,” she said. “Of course, I took that home crying. My mother wrote on the paper, ‘Please give Paula another assignment. I don’t know what her dad does either.’”
She, husband Mark and sister Pamela Reeves — Tasker’s mother — took care of Davis and his wife in their final years.
“He was a very calm man, always, never belligerent,” Stubbs said. “I think part of that was because he had a good routine and we kept him in that routine. … As long as you’re patient with (Alzheimer’s patients), they just don’t know.
“And it’s so sad to watch (the disease in) someone who had access to the president with a red phone. ... He knew his name right up until the end, but beyond that, not much of anything.”
With the home event in Texas, Tasker said she wouldn’t have suggested Alzheimer’s Association as the charity “because I was thinking maybe it’s just us … who know people who have had Alzheimer’s.”
But then she started doing some research and found out just how widespread — and deadly — Alzheimer’s is.
According to the National Institute on Aging, it ranks as the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S., “but recent estimates indicate that the disorder may rank third, just behind heart disease and cancer, as a cause of death for older people.”
“We’re doing all this research for breast cancer, but no one is really doing anything for Alzheimer’s, and yet it’s affecting more and more people at an earlier age,” Tasker said. “And the fact that no one has been cured from it is scary.
“It made us all sit up and take notice.”