ORONO – Alton S. Hamm died June 2, 2012, at Dirigo Pines Retirement Community, less than a month before his 99th birthday and eight years after his arrival there from San Diego to spend his last years near the University of Maine campus.
His beloved wife of 60 years, Adelaide, predeceased him by two years, but they were able to live together at Dirigo Pines right up to the time of her passing. They had no children.
Alton was born in Bangor and raised in Monroe during the Great Depression in very challenging economic circumstances. The University of Maine offered him great opportunities and he took full advantage of them, graduating with high distinction from the University of Maine in 1938 with a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering. Alton’s career began as a mapmaker for the U.S. Army right before and during World War II. In 1943 he was then hired to work on bridge and highway design on Garden State Parkway in New Jersey, and on highway design in Pennsylvania. In 1946 he returned to the University of Maine to build housing on campus for returning veterans, and he also taught in the engineering department. In 1950 Alton moved for health reasons to southern California, where he began work with the County Water Authority, San Diego. He then worked for San Diego County Engineering Department designing highways and bridges. He was also, with Adelaide, a very successful orange grove farmer in the San Diego hill country. Alton retired in 1970 and focused his energies on these orange groves. He later donated this land to the University of Maine Foundation for scholarships in engineering. Alton’s deep respect for education prompted him and Adelaide in their founding of the Alton S. and Adelaide B. Hamm Scholarship Fund in 1997, to provide assistance for upperclass, undergraduate students and graduate students in engineering at the University of Maine. Preference is given to students who have achieved a dean’s list average, completed an elective in economics and display a strong work ethic. To date more than 200 students have benefited from the fund. The Hamms’ goal with these scholarships is to produce the very best in engineering. Now the full proceeds of his will will support new projects, programs and activities at the university. Alton also established a scholarship fund at Dirigo Pines for employees and their families who are pursuing higher education. To date 92 scholarships have been awarded to 47 employees or their family members benefiting from this fund, with $78,000 in scholarships awarded by this program at Dirigo Pines already. Alton believed strongly in education throughout his life, and said on the occasion of his being honored by the state of Maine in a ceremony held in the Hall of Flags in the State Capitol Rotunda in April for his contribution of these significant scholarship funds, "It sure has made me feel good to do this because when I went to college there weren’t many scholarships available. I decided I’d change that." And changed it he did for many students at the University of Maine and for Dirigo Pines staff members and their families. He is sorely missed.
A memorial service for Alton will be held 1:30 p.m. Monday, June 18, at Dirigo Pines. Interment will be after at Mount Solitude Cemetery, Monroe. Memorial gifts in Mr. Hamm’s memory may be directed to University of Maine Foundation for the Alton and Adelaide Hamm Fund, Two Alumni Place, Orono, ME 04469-5792 or Healthcare Charities, Inc. for the Dirigo Pines Scholarship Fund, care of vice president Brad Coffey, 1 Cumberland Place, Suite 300, Bangor, ME 04401. Arrangements are under the care of Birmingham Funeral Home, 438 Main St., Old Town. To sign Alton’s guest book and for additional information, please visit