Kempner man gets 80th birthday surprise from Austin area coworkers

By BRITTANY FHOLER 

Cove Leader-Press 

 

Despite the downpour Wednesday morning, a small group of coworkers drove up from the Austin area to surprise their friend and coworker John Hammond, of Kempner, on his 80th birthday.

The group works for the State Comptroller’s Office in Austin, and since mid-March, all have been working from home. Hammond’s coworkers live in Austin, Pflugerville, Round Rock and near Bastrop. Wednesday morning, they met in Georgetown at 7 a.m. and then drove up to Kempner to surprise Hammond at approximately 8 a.m. 

The group brought balloons and birthday decorations to put in Hammond’s front yard, as well as a Texas sheet cake and donuts from Round Rock Donuts. 

The surprise party was the idea of Hammond’s boss, Ruth Doss, who said Hammond typically would commute to the office two days a week prior to the pandemic forcing everyone to work from home. 

“We knew he was turning 80, and I wanted to do something special,” Doss said. “I mean, how many people do you know that are 80 years old and still commute to Austin? He is one of the brightest men that I know. He is just remarkable of how smart this man is.”

Hammond’s work history includes IBM, EDS and has taken him to Europe, Saudi Arabia, and throughout the United States.  At the Comptroller’s Office, Hammond works in the performance capacity planning section, doing statistical analysis, Doss said. 

“If I could be 80 years old and be as smart as this man, that would be my wish right there,” she added. 

Doss said she began planning the surprise a couple weeks ago and made the Texas sheet cake herself.  The one thing she didn’t account for was the rain, but it had no negative impact on the celebration. 

Doss said they celebrated his 75th birthday five years ago with a joint party for him and another coworker who turned 75, to celebrate 150 years of greatness. With another monumental birthday, the group wanted to celebrate again for his 80th birthday. 

Hammond was shocked when he looked out and saw one of his coworkers setting up the table. 

“It is a fabulous gesture. I never expected it, I never looked for it,” Hammond said. “I was actually expecting to see everybody on my computer screen this morning. We have a morning session every morning with our team.”

Hammond said he has been working in his field since 1961.

“This is the best group I have ever worked with anywhere, and I dare anybody else to find a better one,” Hammond said. 

Hammond added that he has never had a boss as good as Doss. 

“The kind of work I do is challenging, but I love the challenge and I’m so happy in what I’m doing, I’m nowhere near ready to retire,” Hammond said. “They’re going to have to carry me out of there probably; hopefully, that’s not soon.”

On turning 80, Hammond said he didn’t feel much different than the day before. 

“I don’t feel 80, so it’s not hitting me. If I felt myself breaking down, then yes, it would affect me, but this is just a number because I still feel great,” Hammond said. “I’m still active. As long as my mind is working, my body is working, I’m great.”

Although there is no date scheduled for when the group will return to their office in Austin, they were happy to have a chance to reunite even for a brief bit to celebrate Hammond, even if for just a short time. 

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