Posts Tagged ‘J. Watler Hackman’

This post was made by Jason Bauman, and the original can be found at http://blog.jlbauman.com/2012/04/21/a-firm-handshake-and-an-easy-smile/.   We hope you enjoy his wonderful memories as much as we did.


My Grandfather passed away this morning. My grandmother asked all the grandchildren to think of memories of him to share at his funeral. I have so many memories. I wanted to share a few of them with you, to tell you about a man who had such a huge impact on my life.


Firesides and Fishing Lures

I was fortunate enough to grow up knowing all four of my Grandparents. My childhood was filled with visiting them at their homes, or visiting them at their campsite where all of us spent each Memorial Day and Labor Day weekend. J. Walter Hackman was my mother’s dad, and some of the strongest memories I have of him are from those camping trips.

Grandpop loved camping. He had a silver Airstream at the campsite all summer and he and Grammy would make frequent weekend trips there. Inside the camper there were beds, tables, and it felt like a small apartment, but if you stepped outside you’d see picnic table and his fishing poll leaning against it and a row of perfectly stacked logs placed a few feet away from the fire pit.

I remember riding my bike down to his campsite and seeing him standing at the chopping block splitting a log into kindling to feed into the fire. He’d hear me turn into his lot and would look up, smile and wave me over. He showed me how to place the logs in the pit to make sure they started burning the quickest, and how if you removed the bark from pine before placing it in the fire you wouldn’t get as much smoke.

I remember him walking up to my families campsite, tacklebox in hand, to take my brothers and I fishing. Grandpop loved fishing, but I think he liked taking us fishing more. We’d walk down to the lake and he would show us the perfect way to put the worm on the hook and he’d toss the line into the water until we were old enough to do it ourselves.

We never caught much fishing with Grandpop. When I went fishing by myself, or with my dad, we’d toss the line into the middle of the lake and wait for a curious fish to take the bait, but this took too long for my grandfather. As soon as the bait hit the water he’d start reeling it back in. While this might work for some fish, it wasn’t the best way to catch trout, but he didn’t care. He loved the act of fishing, of sitting on a bench with his kids and grandkids just enjoying the outside with them.

My grandfather was one of the hardest workers I’ve ever known but he always took time for his family and he knew how to relax. Whether it was relaxing at their campsite, going on one of his frequent vacations with my grandmother, or just cooking hotdogs on his grill at home, grandpop knew how to have a good time.


Service is the rent we pay…

In his office, Grandpop had a plaque with one of his favorite sayings. “Service is the rent we pay for out stay here on earth.” He had a lot of favorite sayings, but I think I heard him say this one more than any other. To Grandpop, serving others wasn’t an option. It was as natural to him as taking a walk or breathing.

Whether it was volunteering with a prison mission, or giving away something to a customer in need who came to his store, Grandpop loved helping people. He did it quietly though, never making a big deal of it. I didn’t know about his involvement in the prison ministry until someone mentioned it has his 60th wedding anniversary.

He taught me that service was an act of joy, not obligation, that helping others was something you just DID and not something you had to plan out and account for. He founded a church, worked in a prison ministry, and would always be there to lend an ear and offer advice to anyone who needed it.

Service was such a big part of his life, but I can’t pin down a single story to write about here.  Service was who he was, and his whole life is that story.

Success Has No Business Hours

My grandfather was a brilliant businessman, and he started at a very early age. I remember him showing me accounting ledgers from when he was twelve years old and selling peanuts up and down the streets of his hometown, where he neatly listed the costs and profits of each day. He showed me box after box of ledgers where he wrote down each detail throughout his entire life.

He was an entrepreneur. His first “real” business was an old truck he drove around the farmhouses in southern PA as a “Bookstore to your door.” Where he would sell bibles, school supplies, and other items to people who might not be able to make it into the “City” to go shopping.

This mobile bookstore eventually became Hackman’s Bible Bookstore, which grew into the largest independently owned Christian Bookstore on the east coast, one that won the “Christian bookstore of the year” award multiple times before my Grandfather sold the company to my Uncle and “retired.”

The favorite part of the store for him was the Bible Counter where he helped sell hundreds or thousands of bible’s to customers, showing them the different translations (His favorite was the Living Bible) and just getting to know his customers.

He had a mind for business, but he was successful because he had a heart for his customers. He loved getting to know people, not just to pitch them something, but because he loved talking to them. Grandpop loved to know everyone he could, and he’d remember the details you gave him.

From him, I learned the importance of getting to know people as people. In a business world dominated by metrics, efficiency, and things like “Average ticket.” Grandpop seemed more concerned about how a customer’s family was doing, and that’s why so many people loved him.



Watching him go was hard.  At the end they had him on Oxygen and every breath was a struggle.  We were with him last night until almost midnight, singing hymns and telling stories about all of the things he did for us.  When we got the call this morning saying he left us, my Aunt said that right before he went they stood around his bed singing his favorite hymn ‘He Lives.”  At the end he was peaceful, and his breathing a little less labored.  She said he raised his hand up into the air one last time and passed on.  He left surrounded by his loved ones, and I don’t think he’d want it any other way.

He’s inspired me in so many ways and thinking back on his life, the strongest memories aren’t the ones of him in the hospital, battling Parkinson’s. My strongest memories of him are the bone-crushing handshakes he’d give, the smile on his face, and the image of him walking up the path to our campsite, tacklebox in hand.

Rest in Peace, J Walter Hackman. Your rent was paid in full.




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