Helen Hammer Kern, who along with her husband, Herb, brought a business to Scottsboro 74 years ago that has become iconic, died Thursday, March 24. She was 97.
The Kerns opened Hammer’s on the courthouse square in 1948.
Helen Kern’s daughter, Anita Kern, said her mother lived a good life all the way to her passing Thursday.
Helen Kern’s father, A.B. Hammer, opened the first Hammer’s store in Guntersville in 1942. Today, there are three Hammer’s stores in Alabama in Scottsboro, Fort Payne and Oneonta, and six stores in Tennessee, all run by the descendants of A.B. Hammer.
Born on Oct. 6, 1924, Helen Kern was the queen of Anniston High School, where she graduated in 1943. She attended the University of Alabama, where she was in Alpha Chi Omega sorority.
In high school, A.B. bought Helen a car so she could drive her younger siblings to school.
“One of them told me when she was senior she often left them at school for quite a while because she was visiting with Herb,” said Anita Kern. “My dad said when he married her, he had more hours flying a plane than driving a car.”
Anita Kern said her parents married while her mother was in college and while her father was waiting deployment into the US. Army Air Force. Just days after the wedding, her father was shipped to the Pacific, during World War II.
After the war, the Kerns came to Scottsboro and opened their store.
“Mother was smart and really pretty,” said Anita Kern. “She had the bluest eyes like all the Hammers.”
Helen Kern loved to tell stories, was active in clubs and loved to play bridge, her daughter said.
“She was a devout Christian,” said Anita Kern. “She was teaching Sunday School at an early age. She was devoted to Sunday School.”
The Kerns attended First Baptist Church in Scottsboro.
“Daddy was Catholic and would tell the pastor he was a spy for the Pope,” laughed Anita Kern.
The Kerns poured their hearts into the store, which still brings in a crowd each day to this day. They also poured their hearts into the community, especially when children were involved. Anita Kern said she can still remember, as a youngster, her mother wrapping Christmas presents for underprivileged children.
“That was her life,” said Anita Kern. “She loved it. I was an only child, and I just wanted to please my parents.”
Herb Kern died in 2014 after several years of declining health.
Bob Hammer, a nephew to Helen Kern, said his aunt was a special lady.
“She was a Godly woman,” said Hammer. “She lived a pure life.”
Hammer took his aunt to a basketball game in Scottsboro once.
“People just kept coming up to her,” remembers Hammer. “I realized the importance of her.”
“Anita Kern said her mother was a big animal lover.
“She was always picking up stray cats and dogs,” said Anita Kern. “She had no doubt there was a place in Heaven for animals.”
Helen Kern was famous for being late, her daughter said.
“She never went anywhere on time,” said Anita Kern. “Daddy couldn’t stand it.”
She loved Gunsmoke and Texas Walker Ranger. And Alabama football.
“She got up singing, ‘yea Alabama,’ every Saturday in in the fall,” said Anita Kern. “She watched all their games on TV.”
Even to the end, Anita Kern said her mother remained strong. She couldn’t hearand her knees bothered her, but she took no pills.
“She didn’t have a good life, she lived a good life,” said Anita Kern. “She was devoted to her friends.”