The Heartbreaking Story Of Jon Hamm's Mother's Death

Jon Hamm shot to stardom thanks to his portrayal of the enigmatic Don Draper in "Mad Men." Despite not being the big shot Matthew Weiner was looking to fill the role, Hamm proved he was the perfect choice. Hamm and Draper have somewhat parallel early experiences shaped by a dominant father figure. Like Draper, Hamm's father became present later in his childhood, he told The Times in 2009.

Hamm lived with his father from age 10 until he died a decade later. But his father was no ordinary man. Hamm grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, where his father mingled with some interesting characters. "My dad was originally a big fish in that small pond," he said, explaining he ran a trucking business. "He worked with the mafia and the teamsters [union]. It was not a shy business," he added.

Hamm was 20 when his father died, and it hit him hard. "After I'd lost my dad, I had this horrible paralysing inertia — and no one in my family was capable of dealing with it," he told Mr. Porter's The Journal in 2016. His father's death made Hamm an orphan — another trait he shared with Draper. Hamm had lost his mother 10 years earlier. "I was like, 'I've been on this planet for two decades and I have no parents,'" he told The Times. "I never really got a chance to have an adult conversation with them." In fact, his mother's death shaped his life in more ways than one.

Jon Hamm lost his mother to cancer

Jon Hamm was 10 when his mother, Deborah, died of colon cancer. He watched her suffer without knowing what afflicted her. He had to figure it out by himself. "I remember watching my father and my grandmother and my grandfather completely losing their s**t," he told British GQ in 2015. "These people who were usually so composed, so put together, so adult. I just remember thinking, this can't be good." Hamm knew something was wrong when Deborah went into the restroom at the St. Louis Art Museum and didn't return. He had to ask someone to look for her.

Shortly after, Deborah had her colon and part of her intestines removed. "It was very fast. It was incredibly hard to watch," he said. "Life really does a number on you. I watched my mum shrivel up, and at 35." Deborah died within a year of her diagnosis, weighing only 80 pounds. 

Hamm's time with his mother was cut way too short, but he hasn't forgotten her role in his life. "She was a great mom from what I remember," he told The Times. "She took care of me and set me on the right path to get me to where I am now." Her death plucked him from the world he knew and placed Hamm in his father and grandmother's unusual home. "We were three generations living under one roof, which is difficult in the best of circumstances," he told GQ in 2008.

Jon Hamm had many parental figures in his life

Jon Hamm was fond of his dad, but he had no strong paternal instincts. That doesn't mean Hamm had no parental figures in his life. "I was quasi-adopted by my friends' families," Hamm told Elle in 2016. "And even today I get e-mails or cards from these women who, for lack of a better word, were my mom." Among them was Carolyn Clarke, whose daughter dated Hamm in high school. "Because he didn't have a mother, there were three of us that decided we were going to mother him — whether he wanted it or not," she said on "In Depth with Graham Bensinger" in 2018.

Clarke, Maryanne Simmons ,and Susie Wilson gave Hamm the stability he lacked since his mother died. "We talk about what it means to be a family. Mostly it's about showing up. And being aware enough to check in and say, 'How are you doing?'" he told Elle. "I've been incredibly lucky to have these people in my life."

Hamm met these special people thanks to his mother's wish. Even though Deborah didn't make a lot of money as a secretary, she saved every penny she could to send Hamm to John Burroughs, a prestigious high school in Missouri. "Somehow she knew he would find his way; if he was in that kind of place, and that kind of community, he would find his way," Hamm's ex-partner, Jennifer Westfeldt told British GQ. "And that's exactly what happened."