Feb 23, 2023 7:01 PM

Honoring an Oquawka icon

Posted Feb 23, 2023 7:01 PM

By Andy Schneider

Oquawka, Ill., misses Kent Hamilton. 

The well-known Oquawka, Ill., grocer and father of famed golfer Todd Hamilton, died in November 2022.

“He was such a good person,” said Tianna Lane, owner of the Muddy Cup Coffee Co.

Locally owned grocery stores are a dying breed in the world. 

The days of strolling down to the small corner store for a gallon of milk and bread are almost gone.

Hamilton’s Super Market in Oquawka, Ill., was one of those local small-town grocery stores. 

Kent Hamilton owned and operated the grocery store and was a fixture in Oquawka. 

It was a popular destination for Oquawka residents looking to pop in and pick up a few things like fresh-cut steaks. Customers were family to Kent.

“He would deliver groceries, and he asked my grandma, ‘How are you doing Millie? How is your arthritis?’ He wouldn’t just drop off groceries and leave,” Oquawka resident Sue Bigger said.

Everyone in town knew Kent. He was a stranger to no one. 

“If you were new in town he would find out who you were,” Bigger said.

Kent’s generosity was legendary. He would let locals run a tab, and never worried much about getting paid back. 

A trip to the grocery store meant a long talk and catching up with Kent while he cut meat. People have described visits as a “therapy session.”

“There is not a single time that I can remember that I didn’t walk behind that meat counter to get a Kent hug,” said Tianna Lane. 

That sentiment was echoed by every person who knew Kent. 

Residents were sad to see the grocery store shut its doors in 1998. Fisher’s Food Center now fills the void left by its closure. 

Kent Hamilton was a lifelong resident of Oquawka, attending Union High School in Biggsville. 

Later, he attended Southeastern Community College in West Burlington and played on the basketball team.

His son Todd Hamilton won the PGA Tour British Open in 2014, becoming a local celebrity. A sign at the edge of town reads: “Home of 2004 British Open winner Todd Hamilton.”  Kent Hamilton was also an avid golfer and spent much of his free time on the course.

“He was known at every golf course in the area,” Tianna Lane said. Kent couldn’t have been more proud of his son. As he watched his son win his first major golf tournament, all he could say was, ‘Wow! Wow! Wow!’ “

Jon Beckinger, an avid golfer from Biggsville, Ill., remembered Kent fondly. He said, “Kent was a good guy. I remember him telling me if there was anything I wanted signed by his son, to just let him know.”

After his store closed its doors, Kent took a job at Hy-Vee in Burlington and continued cutting meat. However, Oquawka and the Mississippi River were in his blood. When not on the golf course, he was on the river.

Time marches on and leaves emptiness and change in its wake. Like the wake left by the waves on the mighty Mississippi, if you ride out tough times, calmer waters are ahead.

Kent may be gone, but he left a lasting legacy of kindness that will live on in the hearts of those who loved them.