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Former Costa Mesa mayor Jack Hammett dies

Former Costa Mesa mayor Jack Hammett dies
Jack Hammett, a Pearl Harbor survivor, leads the Pledge of Allegiance during an Arbor Day celebration at Sonora Elementary School in 2013. (SCOTT SMELTZER, Daily Pilot)

Jack Hammett, a Pearl Harbor survivor and former Costa Mesa mayor, died Saturday morning in his home. He was 94.

Hammett had been ill for a few weeks and was hospitalized earlier this week, but had returned home, his personal assistant Teresa Drain confirmed Saturday. His cause of death was not immediately clear.

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"He was completely there at the end," she said. "It was his body that failed him, not his mind."

Hammett was born March 22, 1920 in Cleveland, Ohio.

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He spent 22 years active duty in the United States Navy hospital corps, serving in both World War II and the Korean War. After retiring from the military, he helped found Bristol Park Medical Group in Costa Mesa. The medical clinic grew from two doctors to 85 doctors when he retired in 1985.

Hammett spent 15 years on the city's Planning Commission and City Council, helping to install recreational lights at TeWinkle Park, underground utilities on Baker Street, approving plans for the Corona del Mar Freeway and changing the flight patterns of airplanes traveling from John Wayne Airport.

He was previously president of the chamber of commerce, a baseball umpire, a sailor on the Argus at the Boy Scout sea base in Newport Beach and a pilot.

Most recently, Hammett, along with other local veterans, founded the Freedom Committee of Orange County, a group that provides speakers to deliver "living history" to schools.

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In 2007, he was given the lifetime achievement award for his many contributions to the city. The sports complex, formerly known as The Farm, was renamed in his honor in 2011.

"Jack was Mr. Costa Mesa," said Mayor Steve Mensinger.

"His work ethic, leadership, humor and grace helped mold Costa Mesa over decades into the first-class city it is today. His passing is a sad day for our city, but his legacy will be with us forever."

Although Hammett's love for Costa Mesa was definite, he was also a devoted family man.

Every Friday, Hammett would go to his late wife, Mary Jo's grave and bring her flowers.

"He was such a romantic," Drain said. "His wife was everything to him. He would download big band music on his iPhone and play it for her and give her the weekly update."

Hammett recently wrote his autobiography, entitled "You Don't Know Jack." The books arrived at his house late last week.

"I swear that man had his timing down," Drain said.

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Hammett is survived by his three children Angelica, Jill and Mark. He will be buried next to his wife at Harbor Lawn Mt. Olive Memorial Park on Gisler Avenue. Memorial information was not immediately available.

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