One of Hazard's most well known and beloved community leaders is dead.
Charlie Hammonds died at his home Tuesday morning after a long illness. The last of many interviews we did with him was in July, 2005 at a Fourth of July event that was renamed in his honor this year.
Charlie Hammonds moved to the Lothair section of Hazard in 1957 and he never wanted to leave.
"Hazard and Lothair and the people here, I guess I could best describe it as saying it's the next best thing to heaven and there's nothing any better than heaven. It just means so much to me. I love the people, I love the mountains, I love Eastern Kentucky and I just feel at home," Hammonds said in the 2005 interview.
Hammonds ran a service station downtown for many years in an area prone to flooding. He was so familiar with Hazard floods, he became sort of a "flood expert" and we would often get his predictions about how high the water would go like for the minor flood in 2002.
"If it stays within that 27 foot range, I don't think they'll be any heavy damage, just some inconveniences," he said.
Hammonds was a devoted public servant. He was a former city commissioner and later served as an economic developer and an assistant to Mayor Bill Gorman. He volunteered his time for many causes like a fundraiser for seniors on WSGS Radio.
"When I first started helping with the Senior Citizens Day radio program, I talked about those senior citizens. It's been awhile and today it's us senior citizens. I'm having a ball, I'm having a great time," he said.
You could usually find Hammonds at every major event in Hazard, usually with a camera. He was there when part of downtown went up in flames in 2004.
"This is part of our heritage down here and it hurts to see this happen. It's just a terrible fire," Hammonds said.
Hammonds loved the downtown area and wanted to see Main Street thrive again.
"Main Street did die I guess, but it's going to come back. It's going to be beautiful and I'm looking forward to seeing that because I love downtown Hazard," he said.
Hammonds once said his favorite holiday was Independence Day. He looked forward to the Annual Lothair Community Fourth of July Breakfast.
"I can't eat like I used too, but I can still talk and I love the people and I love to see my friends. Some of them you won't see again until next year," he said.
It's hard to imagine the city of Hazard without Charlie Hammonds, but during an interview at that Lothair Fourth of July event in 2005, Hammonds was already thinking about death and going on to the other side.
"I try to stay ready to keep myself in a position to be accepted into the next world and I think that's important. It is to me," he said.
Charlie Hammonds was 76 years old.