Private Hammons funeral surprises family, friends
Thursday, May 30, 2013 10:27 AM
Springfield business icon and philanthropist John Q. Hammons on May 29 was buried at Dice Cemetery in Fairview, Hammons' hometown, 40 miles southeast of Joplin, according to family members and former business associates.
John Q. Hammons was buried at a cemetery in Fairview.
Photo provided by JAN ROBBINS
JQH Hotels Senior Vice President and General Counsel Gregg Groves said Hammons was buried in a private ceremony coordinated by his extended family. "According to Mr. Hammons’ wishes, Mr. Hammons' relatives coordinated the burial plans and [JQH Hotels CEO] Jacquie Dowdy assisted with carrying out those plans," Groves said via email.
Hammons died May 26 at his residence at the Manor at Elfindale. He was 94.
Dowdy did not respond to requests for an interview for a story about Hammons’ death. Groves declined to disclose the location of the funeral, but said details might be released to the public in the future.
“Mr. Hammons was more about life and moving forward and would not have wanted a lot of focus on his passing. In honor of that, there were private, grave-site services held yesterday,” Groves said in a phone interview earlier today.
However, Janet Ballew, niece of Juanita K. Hammons, said there weren't any family members she knows that were contacted about the funeral arrangements.
“I don’t feel like we were treated respectfully or correctly,” said Ballew, who lives in Kansas City. “His closest relatives are his four nieces and one nephew, and we have never been called or asked about this. Even when he died, we found out through the news.”
Ballew’s father, Alfred Franklin Baxter, was a brother to Juanita K. Hammons, whose maiden name is Baxter.
“I don’t know if John has any family on his side left unless it's cousins or something,” Ballew said.
Groves declined to name the family members who coordinated burial plans.
“We have not received one call from anyone. Not from Jacquie Dowdy, not from employees, not from anyone,” Ballew said. “I’m not happy about it at all. I don’t know if there is anything we can do about it.
“It is just so disrespectful. I’m just dumbfounded."
Scott Tarwater, who worked for more than 20 years under Hammons and left along with several members of the design team after Dowdy became CEO in late 2010, said he also was upset many of those closest to Hammons did not have the opportunity to attend services.
“How would you feel if one of your closest friends, confidants, employers who had helped you immensely throughout your life and career passed away, and you did not get the chance to pay your respects and say goodbye? When I heard about it, my heart just fell out of my chest,” Tarwater said.
He said Hammons said several times it was his wish to be buried at the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.
“I absolutely know these were not his wishes. He was a very personable man that had many friends. In fact, in the last several days since everyone found out about it, my phone, texts and email have blown up,” Tarwater said.
He said business associates from around the globe have been asking him when they need to fly into town for services. “We told him we’d reminisce with all the stories. We told him we’d be there. Now, nothing," Tarwater said.
In an effort to give friends, associates and the public a time and place to grieve, company officials said a public ceremony for Hammons is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on June 11 at JQH Arena.
“It will be a public celebration. We are calling it ‘The life and legacy of John Q. Hammons,’” said Phill Burgess, vice president of sales and revenue management for John Q. Hammons Hotels & Resorts. “We are in the planning stages of that now.”