Three months after a glioblastoma IV diagnosis, Noel Francis Hammatt of Baton Rouge breathed his last breath among family and loved ones at the Baton Rouge Hospice Butterfly Wing on October 16, 2020. He spent his last months embracing life to the fullest: cutting down trees, spending time at the beach, visiting swamps, and setting up camp on the front porch with family and friends while telling stories to anyone who would listen -- or not. He will be greatly missed by his wife, Terri Buchholz Hammatt, his two children, Jennie Hammatt (husband Andre Mueller) and James Hammatt (partner Sally Robichaux). brothers Hank Hammatt (Susan Mikota) and Bruce Hammatt (Joy), three sisters, Nancy Shaw, Anita Haywood (Richard), and Mary George Blady (Howard) and a host of other relatives, neighbors, and friends. Son of James Hammatt and Eileen Cotton Hammatt and born on December 2, 1957, Noel grew up at Mount Hope on Highland Road. He graduated from Robert E. Lee High School in 1975. He immediately joined the US Army and became the youngest watercraft operator of class B and C vessels which he ran through the Panama Canal from 1975-1977. In 1978 he trained at Fort Belvoir, VA, to become a cartographer and later a terrain analyst to serve as a Staff Sergeant in Schwetzingen, Germany, from 1978-81. Noel met his wife Terri at a youth hostel in Interlaken, Switzerland, and they were married in 1980. From 1981-84, Noel worked for Boston University Overseas Programs and completed studies with support from the GI Bill, receiving his B.A. in Business Administration with a minor in Political Science from the University of Maryland. Upon returning to Baton Rouge in 1984 for the birth of his daughter, Jennie, Noel began teaching Social Studies at Kenilworth Middle School when he began working on his M.A. and Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction at Louisiana State University. His son, James, was born in 1986 during this time. From 1992-2011, Noel taught multiple courses in the LSU College of Education. Following in his father's footsteps, Noel could often be seen around south Baton Rouge cutting and trimming trees from his early childhood days until taking down his last trees just a couple weeks ago. Noel was elected to the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board in 1994 and served through 2010. During this time, Noel was a leader in ending the longtime desegregation lawsuit filed against East Baton Rouge Parish in 1956. During this time, Noel was President of the Louisiana School Boards Association, a member of the National School Board Association, active in the Council of Urban Boards of Education, and in the national Network for Public Education. His insights and research of the detrimental effects of privatization of education were key elements in his passionate struggle for quality education, equity, and opportunity for all. In 2010 Noel joined the Kiwanis Club of Baton Rouge (Downtown). He served on the Board of Directors, was president of the club and Lieutenant Governor of Division 8W, LaMissTenn District. His pride and joy was in the book project he created entitled Reinforcing the Rewards of Reading to Build a Better Baton Rouge (3Rs for 3BR). This project received recognition from the Volunteers in Public Schools in May 2019. Another favorite Kiwanis project of Noel's was clearing a tributary at Tickfaw State Park so that the children of the McMain's Children's Development Center could experience canoe rides in the park. Noel's most recent projects include an Arnaudville Bench Challenge for weary walkers and the Arnaudville Book Challenge (ABC) to support reading among the community's pre-school children. Noel's love for boating and adventure were evident early on. By the age of 16, he had already pirogued solo up the Mississippi River to Natchez and down the River to Slidell. Whether sailing on Lake Pontchartrain with family or weathering the seas on the Tall Ship Bounty where he mentored middle school students learning to sail, the water brought such joy to his life and others' as well. Noel's ashes will be dispersed in Lake Pontchartain and in Arnaudville along the Bayou Teche. If you would like to honor Noel's memory, please consider donating to the Equal Justice Initiative @ www.eji.org.
Due to COVID, a small private celebration of life will take place soon. We love you, Noel.