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Richard A. Hammond, a local beverage distributor well known for his sponsorship of motor sports, including several qualifiers for the Indianapolis 500, died Friday (Oct. 11, 1996) in his Orchard Park home after a brief illness.

He was 64.

Hammond was chairman of the board and owner of Gohr Distributing, a family-operated beer and beverage distributing company on Buffalo's East Side that provided him the means to pursue his deep love of motor sports.

The Buffalo native and Bennett High School football guard in the late 1940s was irresistibly drawn to fast and powerful vehicles from childhood, even though he never actually raced an automobile.

Hammond got his start in motor sports by sponsoring local stock-car races at Lancaster National Speedway and Holland International Speedway. He backed numerous drag racers, hydroplanes and championship sprint-car racers on the United States Auto Club circuit.

It was his friendship with the late Jim Hurtubise -- the North Tonawanda native widely acknowledged as the most distinguished race-car driver in Western New York history -- that led Hammond to the major leagues of auto racing: the Indianapolis 500.

For several years, starting in 1971, Hurtubise drove Hammond's cars on the championship trail, piloting one to a 25th place finish in the 1974 Indy race.

Between 1970 and 1990, more than a dozen cars owned and sponsored by Hammond qualified to compete in the Indy 500. Hammond's best finish came in 1987 when driver Gary Bettenhausen took his car to fifth place in the 71st running of the Indy 500.

During the early 1980s, Hammond's Indy car entries sported decals displaying the "Buffalo, Talking Proud" logo.

W. Jay Milligan Jr., president of J.M. Productions of Hamburg, a promoter of various motor sport events locally, became acquainted with Hammond on the racing circuit more than 30 years ago.

"No one individual gave more to motor sports in Western New York, as a car owner and sponsor, than Dick Hammond," said Milligan "Dick was a giver to the sport. He didn't need racing to be successful, but he loved it so much, he gave and continued to give."

Hammond was also a big Buffalo Bills booster, sponsoring cocktail parties for the owners and management of the opposing teams and hospitality programs for visiting sportswriters.

In addition to his beverage distributorship, he ran a tourist helicopter and small-plane business in Niagara Falls from 1973 to 1990.

Hammond was a supporter of numerous local youth sports organizations, the annual Channel 17 Auction and the Shamrock Run.

He served in the U.S. Navy for four years, including during the Korean War.

Survivors include his wife, Jeannine A.; two sons, Jeffery R. and Thomas A.; a daughter, Susan M.; and a sister, Marjorie J. Strange.

A private service and burial were Saturday.[hmcnl]

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