Colonial Heights native, Midlothian pastor dies after month-long battle with COVID-19, pneumonia

Chesterfield County

MIDLOTHIAN, Va (WRIC) – The Midlothian campus pastor for The Heights Baptist Church, Robert P. Hamm, also known as “Buddy”, has died of COVID-19 and pneumonia, according to the church’s senior pastor, Randall T. Hahn.

Hamm died on Thursday, Sept. 16 after a battle with the virus that lasted more than a month. He was a Colonial Heights native.

He was diagnosed with COVID-19 about five weeks ago. Despite quarantining from each other, his family was also diagnosed, and Hahn said they had quite a battle with the illness.

Hamm and his daughter Ashley were the last ones in the family to get the virus, according to Hahn.

After being at home sick with COVID for about a week, Hamm went into the hospital. After being in the hospital for about a week, Hahn said he was put on a ventilator to help him breathe. At that point, family and friends had no communication with him because he was sedated.

“That is the horror of this disease, is you fight it all alone. The things that we need emotionally, spiritually, mentally are all taken away from us as we fight this horrible physical battle,” Hahn told 8News in an interview Saturday.

Karen Tomlinson knew Hamm since the 1970s and 1980s and growing up, they both went to church together at The Heights. Her daughter Kendall is friends with Hamm’s daughter, Ashley.

Tomlinson said Hamm was in his 50s when he lost his battle to COVID-19 Thursday.

“It was hard not being there,” she said. “Because you do, you just want to wrap your arms around him and make him better.”

“I spent more days than I can count in the Hamm house growing up, which was always overflowing with laughs and support from both Mr. and Mrs. Hamm,” Kendall said in a message to 8News on Saturday evening. She added that it was through Hamm that she discovered her passion for being a missionary.

For three weeks, Hahn said Hamm was on a ventilator and an ECMO, which enabled his lungs to rest, helping oxygenate blood outside of his body. On Thursday, Hahn said the machines were starting to work against his body.

“His lungs were gone. And so, they said, well, we’ve got to take him off the machines, but he won’t be able to breathe,” Hahn said.

Hamm lost his life in the minutes following. “He came off the machines at 3:20 and it wasn’t five, ten minutes later and it was over,” said Hahn.

Pastor Hamm was on the staff at The Heights Baptist Church for about 17 years. Hahn said Hamm was a lifelong member of the church and two generations that came before him were also lifelong members.

“Buddy Hamm is as Heights Baptist as you can get,” Hahn said, smiling.

Hahn said Hamm and his wife Kerri moved to Amelia recently to be closer to the church in Midlothian. Before becoming campus pastor at the church’s Midlothian campus, Hamm was a children’s pastor, working with parents and more than 300 children up to 6th grade.

Buddy Hamm speaks with Karen Tomlinson’s son at the hospital. Tomlinson said this was one of many visits he made to pray over her children. (Photo: Karen Tomlinson)

“He’s walking with families through their children coming to the Lord and being baptized, and then different crises and even children in the hospital. I mean, he would be the one there caring for them and walking with the family through that time,” Hahn said.

Over the years, Pastor Hahn said Hamm impacted hundreds of people in the community.

Tomlinson held back tears telling 8News in an interview Saturday that the whole reason her daughter got involved in mission trips was thanks to Hamm.

Members of The Heights Baptist Church smile for a photo ahead of their mission trip. (Photo: Karen Tomlinson)

Unsure if Hamm was vaccinated against COVID-19, Hahn said it’s important to talk with your doctor and make the right decision for your own health concerning the virus and vaccines.

“I trust people’s freedom to make their decisions. You know, even with Buddy, it’s not as simple as get vaccinated or don’t get vaccinated, or I believe, or I don’t believe,” he said. “You know what I would say? Boy, you absolutely should know what your doctor thinks and make the right decision for you, but it’s a ravaging disease.”

Hahn said the church will hold a worship service Sunday with the family present. The funeral service for Hamm will happen next Saturday.

“Even in this, God has a purpose for Buddy, for the family, for our church, for all of us. And, you know what I want to encourage people is don’t grieve his death if you’re going to waste his death. Let his death impact how you go forward and live life,” Hahn said.

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