Hangar renamed to honor Hamel
Has been working at the Claremont airport for 55 years
By PATRICK ADRIAN
Special to the Eagle Times
CLAREMONT — Those who know Roger Hamel, Claremont Airport's longtime base operator and caretaker, offer strikingly similar praises of him: a devoted, modest man who gives countless hours to both the airport and to anyone in need, without want of credit or attention for his service.
“Roger Hamel is the type of guy who works behind the scenes, gets things done, nobody knows about it, but Roger really doesn't want anyone to say anything,” resident Joe Osgood told the city council
The city council voted unanimously last night to name the hangar at Claremont Airport after Roger Hamel, in honor of his over-50 years of service to pilots, visitors and the city.
Mayor Charlene Lovett read a moving letter in support of the naming by pilot and Matrix Aerospace Corporation President Ed Farris, who credits Hamel to saving his and his wife's life.
Two years ago, Farris was flying with his wife in his new aircraft, practicing landings at the airfield when Hamel radioed Farris and notified him, just before Farris was about to touchdown, that his landing gear wasn't down.
“Roger stayed with me on the radio and talked with me to make sure everything was okay,” Farris wrote. “And my wife and I immediately realized that Roger not only saved my aircraft, but he quite possibly saved our lives.”
Farris also noted how Hamel, rather than telling others about the story, never shared it with anyone nor mentioned it again to Farris.
“I remember walking into his office a few weeks later and telling him I could kiss him for what he did,” Farris wrote. “Roger simply smiled at me and said, 'I don't want a kiss, but I'll take a handshake.'”
Dave Carton, the airport's current base operator, said that Hamel has been a face and fixture of the Claremont Airport since Carton began spending time there in the mid-'60s. While Hamel was officially the airport's fixed base operator for 20 years, Carton said that Hamel's total service, including as a volunteer, spans 55 years.
Claremont fire chiefs, both past and present, praise Hamel's dedication, likening him to the airport's ambassador.
“Roger is in the tenth decade of his life and continues to work at the facility every day,” Claremont Fire Chief Bryan Burr told the council. “He has greeted pilots new to the area and on many occasions has provided a personal tour of the city to those interested in Claremont.”
Carton told the council that today is Hamel's birthday. He is 96 years old.
A bronze plaque, 18-by-12 inches, will be placed near the entrance of the newly built hangar at a future dedication. Burr said he someone had offered to donate the funds to buy the plaque.
Burr and Carton said afterward that Hamel does not know yet about the campaign, or this decision, to name the hangar after him.