RAY “BUD” JOHN LAMMERS
December 12, 1930 to December 9, 2015
A military man to the core
Ray “Bud” John Lammers, a former U.S. Air Force captain whose love of flying and reverence for military practices influenced his entire adult life—along with that of his adored family—passed away at home in Westlake Village, CA on Wednesday, December 9, 2015. He was 84.
As a young man, “Bud”, as he was known, could have been a film star. At 6-feet-1, with dark wavy hair, a rich baritone voice, and Paul-Newman-blue eyes, he was every girl’s dream. But it was flying that captivated him, that and obeying orders. You have only to ask his two daughters, Heather Ann and Tiffany, about military time, the only clock their dad acknowledged.
“If he told us to be in the car at 0-800, and we got there at 0-802, he would have driven off without us,” said Heather Hart, who lives with her husband in Newport Beach. Or, if the girls discarded their shoes on the floor in the living room, they would find them the next day in the trash.
Yes, Bud was disciplined, a stickler for authority, very black and white—until he grew older. Then, about the time his grandchildren came along, he mellowed like a fine wine. “He became a wonderful grandfather to my children,” Heather said. “Especially my son Randall, who is now 14.” He would teach Randall all about the world and the speed of light, all the things little boys love, she said.
But when Bud’s own daughters were growing up, Heather and Tiffany weren’t interested in guy stuff. “He would take us to air shows, and we would play Barbies under the bleachers,” Heather said.
The second of three children, Ray John Lammers was born on December 12, 1930, in St. Paul, MN, to Ida Mary Willenbring and Ray Isadore Lammers, who worked in construction and sales. The family, including daughters Katherine and Helen, lived on a farm in Somerset. Raised in a Catholic family, young Ray was nicknamed “Bud” so as to distinguish him from his dad. As a youngster, he built model airplanes and loved anything and everything related to flying.
After graduating from Somerset High School, on May 19, 1948, he basically ran the family farm. In September of 1950, learning that one of his buddies had been drafted into the U.S. Army, Bud went to the local draft office to find out if he was to suffer the same fate. The clerk told him she wasn’t allowed to divulge that information, but that she would be gone for lunch for an hour. Bud used the time to break into the office, find the file and see his name, along with those of eight of his friends.
Called to duty in 1951
Since Bud and his pals hated the idea of joining the Army, they drove to Minneapolis and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. Both USAF boot camps were full, so the boys were sworn in and told to be ready to travel in one or two days. They weren’t called to duty until after the holidays, on January 9, 1951.
If learning to fly was a thrill for Bud, active duty in Korea was a whole other experience. Although his primary responsibility was as navigator bombardier in B-26 bombers, Bud more often flew “right seat, which was a co-pilot position,” he wrote to a friend long after the war. “We were trained to fly the plane, manage fuel, do the pre-landing check list as if the right seater was dead or wounded.” On night missions, the planes would take off with a full load of 500-pound bombs and 5400 rounds of 50 caliber ammunition.
“The weather was so bad…rain hitting the windshield, we never saw the runway,” he continued in his letter to his friend. “I would hold a flashlight on the instruments in case we lost internal power. You did not want to go off the runway, ground-loop crash and burn with 900 gallons of 115 octane fuel to heat up the explosives. We flew in horrible weather, including icing on instruments in an aircraft with no active de-icing equipment.
“We dropped out 5000 pounds of bombs by radar direction, and returned to the same runway about five hours later. We flew every night for four or five hours on instrument. None of those missions were fun; many of the pilots and navigators had bleeding ulcers. When we landed, usually at first light, we were whipped. It felt like you had been in a fight and lost.”
After he was honorably discharged in October of 1956, he joined the USAF Reserve in Minneapolis, which he loved. Part of the 440th Troop Carrier Wing, Bud flew almost every weekend for four years.
A match made in heaven
Bud and flying were a match made in heaven, second only to the girl he was to meet at the University of Minnesota, where he pledged Chi Psi fraternity. The story about meeting his future wife, along with the one about breaking and entering the draft office, were two of his favorites.
He was at a dance, he often recalled, and looking around for the prettiest girl in the room. And there she was, Jessica Eiline Thellin, an outgoing brunette with a dazzling smile. She was studying to be a teacher. He asked her to dance and for her phone number. She said no repeatedly. He didn’t give up, saying, “I think I forgot your phone number.” Amused, Jessica relented. Busy with flying and classes, Bud waited six weeks to ask her out for a soda. When the dates became a habit, Jessica broke off her engagement—to an oil tycoon, it turned out—and made her sister return the ring.
“I haven’t even asked you to marry me yet,” Bud said when he found out, “but I plan to.” Once he graduated with a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering Degree, they promptly got engaged, and then married in a formal ceremony on January 21, 1961, at St. Joseph’s Church, in Rice Lake Wisconsin.
Heidi wouldn’t let him in the door
After leaving the Air Force, Bud’s military discipline, work ethic, and respect for authority served him well as a salesman. He worked for 3M Company, formerly known as the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, an American multinational conglomerate corporation based in Maplewood, MN, a suburb of St. Paul. In the early years, he traveled all over the country selling computer disk drives, traveling so much that the family German Shepard, Heidi, didn’t recognize him when he came home and wouldn’t let him in the door.
Eager to escape the cold, the couple moved to Southern California in the mid-60s. Heather came along on June 20, 1968; Tiffany on June 12, 1971. The Lammers planned the kids’ arrival during the summer so as to coordinate with Jessica’s teaching career.
With the help of his father Ray, Bud—an excellent craftsman in his own right—built a rambling ranch-style home, from the ground up, on three acres of land in Westlake Village. In terms of décor, the house was like a time capsule, Heather said. “It never left the 1970s-80s.” Bud later built a tennis court and pool, designed gardens, and planted everything from apples to grapefruit in a large fruit orchard.
Deeply romantic, he created a rose garden especially for his Jessie, and brought her a rose nearly every day they bloomed. He played the piano and loved serenading his wife with their song, “Stardust”. In turn, Jessica cooked his favorite meal, spaghetti and meatballs with a sauce made with tomatoes plucked from their garden.
Despite his phenomenal success as a salesman, Bud left the socializing duties, planning “amazing pool parties” and such, to his gregarious spouse. Once things got underway, however, he basked in the spotlight, happy with a glass of California cabernet in his hand.
Everything in capital letters
But Bud’s military quirks remained. As though barking orders, he wrote everything in capital letters and believed everyone should do the same. When leaving voicemails for his daughters after they were grown, he would always start by saying, “This is your father…” and end by saying, “End of message.”
He adored the color blue (color of USAF dress uniforms, wouldn’t you know), and his daughters wore “sparkly” blue dresses to please him throughout high school. “Almost every car he owned in his lifetime was some shade of sparkly blue,” Heather said.
Daughter Tiffany said that when she was having a bad day at work, Bud would say, “Don’t let the bastards get you down.” Only he would say it in Latin, “Illegitimi non carborundum.” It always made her laugh.
Later in life, Bud liked helping kids with cleft palates in under-developed countries and got heavily involved with “Operation Smile.” He read Tom Clancy and John Kellerman novels and loved war movies, spy thrillers and anything with John Wayne related to flying.
Still, Bud’s sense of humor, while dry enough to offend some, could pop out at any time.
Once, during a trip to Lake Castaic, Jessica was sunbathing on a raft when Bud turned to his girls and said, “Watch, you will never see your mother move this fast again.” Seconds later he yelled, “SHARK!”
Jessica paddled in so furiously, she messed up her hair and got soaking wet. “She was furious, and we couldn’t stop laughing,” Heather said. “It’s still funny after almost 40 years.”
Bud loved the sea, no more so than when he and Jessica spent time on their yachts, first a 48-foot Chris Craft dubbed “Tailwagger,” and later on a 58-foot Spindrift Cruiser called “Empress.” The boats, docked in the Channel Islands Harbor, were like floating condo/party houses . Bud also loved to fish, watch football and car races and play tennis.
His biggest heartbreak
His biggest heartbreak came when Jessica, nine years his junior, died suddenly of heart failure in 2008. She was just 69. He had always intended to marry someone younger so he could be taken care of in his old age. Best laid plans… He missed her like crazy and became something of a recluse.
A fierce Republican, who liked to refer to himself as a “recovering Catholic,” Bud had also turned the page as far as his nature was concerned. For the last years of his life, he was a joy to be around, especially for his younger grandchildren, Randall and Ashley, who moved to California with their parents in 2011.
“He would spend time with my son building robots, flying radio-controlled planes, playing Legos and Wii,” Heather said. And every holiday, Bud would dance with the kids. “It was so much fun to watch him try to dance to Thriller!” With granddaughter Ashley, he talked about his life, politics and travel, stories she faithfully recorded.
One of Bud’s greatest joys was attending the June wedding of his granddaughter Hillary, who looks so much like her grandmother.
Then, in late November, while outside working in the yard he loved, he fell and suffered a severe concussion. He went steadily downhill from then on, both mentally and physically. Along with hospice, Heather cared for him at the end, as did Tiffany, who flew in from Arizona, as did granddaughter Hillary from Nashville.
Heather suspects that if her father were here today, he would be railing about what idiots the presidential candidates are. She only wishes she had told him what a “fabulous grandfather” he was, and how proud she was of his military service. “He was so very stubborn, I could barely stand it as a child,” Heather said. “As an adult, I think the lessons he taught me are what carried me through the most difficult moments of my life.”
That said, Heather had planned a big 85th birthday party at the Four Seasons in Westlake Village on December 12, just a few days after he passed away. “It was very much like him to do his own thing.”
Bud Lammers is survived by his daughters, Tiffany Lammers of Scottsdale, AZ, and Heather Ann Hart (husband Gerard J. Hart) and grandchildren Ashley Scarr Hart and Randal Alexander Hart of Newport Beach, CA; and granddaughter Hillary B. Hart (husband Kyle McMichael) of Nashville, TN, and his sister Katherine Kochevar of Camarillo, CA. Sister Helen Cowherd is deceased.
A memorial will be held at an unspecified date, after which Bud and Jessica Lammers’ ashes will be distributed together, in the sea, off Catalina Island.