Michael “Bear” James Hamilton

Obituary Pic2


A “Celebration of Life” service will be held at The Church of the Resurrection (Leawood) in the Wesley Covenant Chapel, 13720 Roe Ave, Leawood, KS 66224, on Thursday, October 14th, 2021, at 11:00 AM CDT. Out of respect for the family, please wear a mask. For those unable to attend in person, a live stream and recording of the service will be available at https://vimeo.com/637307922/7c22f55efc


Michael “Bear” James Hamilton, 67, of Overland Park, Kansas passed away peacefully on Sunday, October 3rd, 2021, at 6 PM surrounded by his family.

Bear was born in Phoenix, Arizona on January 19th, 1954, to Betty and Robert Hamilton. While living in Arizona, he attended Tempe High School, Mesa Community College and later graduated with a dual degree in physics & chemistry from Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington.

After graduation, Bear started his long-tenured professional career in the food and beverage industry where he served in various roles and positions for over 35 years.  During that time, he met many great colleagues he remained close friends with throughout his life. There are far too many names to list, but if you ever worked with Bear, chances are he remembered you, and you certainly would have remembered him. He relished in telling long-winded stories of fond memories and past experiences.

While living and working in Arizona, Bear met Lenore “Lennie” while working together at The Waterin’ Hole restaurant at the Pointe Tapatio Resort. Not long after, they joined hands in marriage on June 9th, 1984. They had three boys, Taylor, Chase and Cooper. He was beyond proud of the men they had grown to become.

Bear’s serviceable contributions were numerous, as he served on many boards and foundations including: The Arthritis Foundation, The Scottsdale Culinary Institute, the Fiesta Bowl organization, Arizona Baseball Charities, and The Craig H. Neilsen Foundation where he helped raise over $1M in charitable proceeds for spinal cord injuries. He also served 15 years on The Harmon Killebrew Foundation, of whom he was honored to call a friend. 

Bear had a deep passion for the game of baseball. While attending Gonzaga University he pitched for the baseball team on scholarship. This is where Bear’s iconic nickname was coined. Later in life, he enjoyed coaching his boys’ little league teams as he taught them the fundamentals of the game that he loved.

In 2002 he and his family relocated from Scottsdale, Arizona and moved to Overland Park, Kansas where he worked as Corporate Vice President of Food and Beverage for Ameristar Casinos. Throughout his time in Kansas, he and his family developed tight-knit bonds and relationships with many people that they are grateful to call friends.

Bear was very much an “entertainer” and he would often enjoy hosting pool parties, supper clubs, poker nights and Super Bowl parties. He also enjoyed watching K-State sports; where all three of his boys graduated, Royals baseball, Chiefs football and PGA tour golf. He also enjoyed fishing, was an avid golfer and enjoyed casino trips (occasionally on cruises) with his wife. Above all else, he was a proud family man. There was nothing more important to him than his family

Michael is preceded in death by his parents Betty and Robert Hamilton. He is survived by his wife of 37 years, Lenore Weight Hamilton of Overland Park, Kansas; brother, Rick Hamilton (Sharon) of Scottsdale, Arizona; sister Linda Mason of Gold Beach, Oregon; son Taylor Hamilton (Amy) of Overland Park, Kansas; son Chase Hamilton of Overland Park, Kansas; son Cooper Hamilton (Kala) of Peculiar, Missouri; grandchildren London (3) and Calvin “Michael” Hamilton (8 months) of Overland Park, Kansas.


Memorial Contributions

In lieu of flowers or gifts, the family has partnered with the Kansas City MLB Urban Youth Academy, a non-profit organization, to support a cause Bear believed in. The KCUYA’s mission is to empower Kansas City’s underserved youth through baseball and softball, as well as academic and social opportunities, to be the leaders of tomorrow. Please consider a monetary donation to this organization by visiting https://www.mlb.com/royals/forms/urban-youth-academy-donations and in the “Is this donation in honor of someone?” section, entering Michael “Bear” Hamilton.


  1. Steve and Vicki Hertz on October 14, 2021 at 5:01 pm

    My name is Steve Hertz and I had the great privilege to be Michael’s pitching coach at Gonzaga, and the even greater privilege to be his good friend since 1976.
    He was truly bigger than life at all times, when Bone walked into a room, you knew he had arrived! A personality as golden as the sun, and a heart as true as there ever was!
    If Mike was your friend, you had a loyal and trustworthy one you could always count on, and one forever!
    He was a thorough and dedicated student athlete…when another player needed help academically, I could count on Michael to go help that person get some academic assistance. If there was anything with the ballpark or any job that might need extra attention, I would always go to Mike to assist, he was amazing!
    When Lance Woodruff reached out to me today to tell me of Mike’s passing, it left me speechless and out of breath. For he was truly a great person in every phase of what a human being and friend should be…
    Vicki and I will miss him so much, he was the best, full of love for everyone…and also a damn good left handed pitcher!
    Our love and thoughts to Lennie and the family,
    From our hearts,
    Steve and Vicki Hertz

  2. Lance “Woody”Woodruff on October 14, 2021 at 1:15 pm

    Mike and met the first day of College at Gonzaga University. We roomed together and we’re fellow pitchers on the baseball team. He was always an inspiration to me and so many others. We lived in different areas of the Country for many years, but we still stayed close by vacationing together with our growing families.
    Bear enjoyed life to the fullest. Many of my best moments and experiences include time spent with him. He shall truly be missed, but never forgotten. God bless Mike Hamilton.

  3. Troy and Claudia Jensen on October 13, 2021 at 10:30 pm

    I remember meeting Bear when Lenore worked at the Waterin’ Hole. My husband, Troy, is Bear and Lenore’s nephew and we were dating when I met Bear and Lenore and I was so impressed! Lenore was so beautiful (still is) and Bear was bigger than life and I wanted that for Troy and me. We attended their wedding and later many family members took an amazing trip in an RV to the Rose Bowl when ASU played (oh and won!)….it was a complete blast! For years we spent time with them during the holidays and it was great watching their family grow. Troy and I have spent more time with Lenore and Bear in the last two years, and today I am so grateful for that. Bear’s sense of humor and charisma is undeniable!!. We love Bear and Lenore and their family, we are so very sorry for your loss and hold your family in our hearts and prayers. Your family is amazing and we all love you so very much!

  4. Jim Austi on October 12, 2021 at 1:48 pm

    I worked, golfed and even played baseball with Bear over many years. You learn a lot about man over such time and situations. I was on the tee with when he got the hole-in-one and won the BMW – here’s the rest of the story – he drove it for a couple days, sold it back to BMW and used the money for gifts and Vacation for his family, whom he loved above all else. Above being fun to be with, he was truly one of the kindest, most considerate individuals I’ve ever met. With a chemistry- physics degree,
    I always knew he was always the smartest guy in the room, but he was always humble and had a way of making each person feel of great value regardless of their position in life. I wasn’t surprised to learn he was an Eagle Scout. He truly lived the Eagle Scout oath: On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my Country and to obey the Scout Law: To help other people at all times; keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.
    God bless you Bear, Lenny, Taylor and Cooper.

  5. Venice, Jason, Tiffany, Tristen, Trinity on October 11, 2021 at 11:51 am

    Bear… we will forever keep your memory alive by talking about what a genuine man you were, always kept us laughing with your great wit, we knew you loved all of us, your kindness continued each time we were with you. We talk about all the many memories which you made so fun! You were always at all our weddings, the hilarious story at the ranch, getting our orders for McDonald’s when there was one tiny chicken for 20+ people, surprising Tristen with fireworks at her wedding, always stepped in when times were tough and turned a negative into a positive. We will miss you tremendously!!! You were the best brother-in-law, the best uncle and we were so lucky to have you in our lives! Our children will hear the wonderful stories about all the love you gave us and you will always be in our hearts! We love you forever!♥️

  6. Jens Baake on October 11, 2021 at 7:47 am


    How sad to see you go so early. There are a lot of people who knew you as a friend, husband and father. I know that every time you talked about them, your eyes always started to sparkle. Family is always everything to you! At Ameristar, we were family too – you were “Bear” to us as well. When you talked about what we could do together, your eyes started to sparkle. Thanks for being such a fantastic mentor, coach and leader who – without doubt – made our F&B family so strong. We were better because of you! Jens

  7. Roy & Joy Worthy on October 10, 2021 at 10:32 am

    Bear’s passing is a huge loss to so many! He was absolutely one of the finest people on earth. Bear was fun, generous to a fault, had a heart of gold. Bear was a genuine friend. He will be missed immensely. Rest In Peace Bear!
    The Worthy Family

  8. Randy Hiatt on October 9, 2021 at 12:39 pm

    Bear, we are thinking the best of you. And there was a lot of best in Bear.

    Bear was a huge presence. He could own the room with hundreds of people or he could make a huge impact on a person in one-on-one discussions.

    As a person, there are none better. Great values, great integrity, love of family, best of friends, mentor to many…how can you ask for more?

    I had the great pleasure of seeing Bear every couple of weeks for the eleven years we worked together. It was a time to look forward to, as it would be a time of friendship, business accomplishments, and always, more than a few laughs.

    Bear was highly respected and loved in the Ameristar organization, from its founder, Craig Nielsen, to the 1800 Food and Beverage team members he led. Many times when a group was discussing a change of policy, Bear would ask “how does this effect our team members?”. He was the voice of all.

    Although I did not get to work with him on all of his many charitable contributions, those were extensive and passionate. He ran the Craig H. Nielsen golf tournament from start to finish, raised considerable funds and nurtured extensive goodwill among the players and patrons.

    Baseball was another passion for Bear. Early in our relationship, he would casually drop names like Yogi and Frank Robinson. These were heroes to all kids who grew up on baseball.
    Over time, you understood that Bear not only knew these guys, but they loved him and what he did for baseball. Beyond that, he was the lead-off pitcher for games where these heroes played.

    Not many people were luckier than Bear….or maybe it was skill. Winning a car with a hole-in-one, cleaning-up on blackjack…it never ended.

    Funny moments were continuous with Bear. He knew when to be serious, but if the moment needed to get lighter, Bear was there for it. He had fun with people, not at the expense of people.

    Bear’s biggest contribution was his family. Lennie was with him 37 years and hopefully was able to spend substantial quality time with him over the last eight years when he “semi-retired”. He was also so proud of Taylor, Chase and Cooper and the growing Hamilton family. Each time we met over our 11 years working together and when we connected since, he started with a family update.

    As you can see, there is a lot to love about Bear. His passing leaves a giant hole in our hearts that will never be filled.

    Miss you, Big Guy.

  9. Bruce Berres on October 9, 2021 at 9:44 am

    Best regards to the Hamilton family. Very proud to have called Bear a friend. You should have seen his face after winning a BMW in a Hole in One contest on the Tapatio Cliffs golf course, priceless, as was his friendship. Bruce Berres

  10. Dawn and Corey Johnson on October 8, 2021 at 10:03 pm

    I met Bear when he hired me at the Waterin’ Hole at the Pointe Tapatio in 1982. I couldn’t ask for a better boss or environment to work in. I also met my very good friend, Lenore who worked there at the same time. Everyone at the restaurant felt like family, anchored by our sweet, generous and kind boss, Bear. Strong lifetime bonds were forged with many from that magical time and still thrive all these years later. Bear and Lenore made a great couple and soon had three sons completing their perfect family. We’ve remained close all these years even through a move to Kansas where they gained many more devoted friends and expanded their family with cherished grandchildren.
    It seems unimaginable to be remembering our good and dear friend Bear after his untimely passing. We are beyond grateful to have had an in-person visit with both of them recently here in Phoenix, it had been too long.
    Bear was a truly special human, to know him was to love him. We will miss him forever.

  11. Sharon and Paul Stauffer on October 8, 2021 at 5:37 pm

    Bear was a big and welcome presence in whatever setting he happened to be. We remember how fun as well as helpful he was at some of our children’s wedding receptions. There were also some great fishing trips including the time he and Lenore were in the boat we sunk on the South Fork of the Snake River. We remember what a devoted husband and father he was—the greatest tribute any man could receive. Our love to Lenore and family.

  12. Billie Bauer on October 8, 2021 at 5:25 pm

    We loved him so much! Many awesome memories with Bear and Lenore but one stands out…singing “show” tunes with him. We thought we were great but I’m sure …not so much!

  13. Mary Garlock on October 8, 2021 at 4:34 pm

    Lenore, all my love to you at this hard time. I have been thinking of you all week. I’m so happy to know you have friends and family around you to support you and watch over you. What would we do without them? Loved to you!

  14. Shelli and Kevin Parmentwr on October 8, 2021 at 3:37 pm

    Like all who met him…we loved him. Very lucky to have him in our lives and call him a dear friend. We will hold in our hearts all the wonderful times we had together. Sending love, hugs and prayers toLenore, Taylor, Chase and Cooper. He will be so missed by all.

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