Hanson left impact through friendly demeanor
George Hanson was a friendly person. He always seemed to have a smile on his face and his conversations included his trademark laugh. And he loved to tell stories.
A Stevens Point native, he was involved in the community, serving on the Stevens Point Common Council and the Stevens Point Police and Fire Commission.
Hanson, who died unexpectedly Thursday, April 7, 2016, was perhaps more widely known for his volunteer activities in the city and beyond. But his family always came first, helping them whenever he could.
His impact was evidenced Tuesday, April 12, as classmates, co-workers, friends, acquaintances and others waited outside Boston Funeral Home while hour-long lines snaked through the funeral home before the hundreds of mourners could pay their respects to his family.
Hanson was born Nov. 22, 1946, in Stevens Point, a son of the late George and Mary (Hoppen) Hanson and spent most of his life the city. He attended St. Stephen Grade School and graduated from Pacelli High School in 1965.
After receiving a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP) in 1969, he was drafted into the U.S. Army, a common occurrence among male college graduates in the Vietnam era before the military draft was discontinued.
He served in Vietnam where he welcomed “care” packages from his family. The Stevens Point Brewery posted a photo from the family this week showing Hanson kissing a Point beer while holding another that he received from his family at his post in Vietnam.
He also liked to talk about receiving cookies from his mother while in Vietnam and how he liked to horde them, eating them periodically one at a time to savor them.
His love for cookies created a lifelong passion for the treat that would lead him to bake cookies for friends and others to enjoy at many meetings and events later in life.
After service, Hanson came back to Stevens Point where he settled with his wife, Joanie May, whom he married Aug. 22, 1970. He returned to UWSP and earned a business administration degree in 1972.
He started working in nursing home administration in the Stevens Point and Colby areas, then started working for First Financial Savings & Loan, which later became Associated Bank.
In Whitehall he was a manager of a First Financial branch, and he co-founded the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 45. He was also served on the Trempealeau County Board and was active in the Chamber of Commerce.
Then Hanson, his wife and their four children, returned to Stevens Point where he continued to work for First Financial.
His children began attending Catholic schools in Stevens Point, and Hanson was usually among the volunteer parents helping at various events.
At St. Peter Middle School, Hanson was among a group of fathers who got down on their hands and knees to scrape the decades-old varnish off the gymnasium floor to improve the facility because the quotations to have a commercial firm do it far exceeded fundraising efforts. He usually entertained the volunteers with his stories as they worked.
At his alma mater, Pacelli, he served in a number of volunteer capacities, including chair of the car raffle, a fixture at the Panacea event in the fall.
He was in the public eye while after he was elected as an alderperson on the Stevens Point Common Council, serving from April 2005 to April 2009. After stepping down from that post, he served on the Stevens Point Police and Fire Commission. He also served on the Economic Development Committee.
After he retired from Associated Bank, he became a poll worker in Stevens Point’s District 3 from March 2010 until his death. For elections he usually brought cookies as treats for co-workers and voters.
He also became involved with Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners (W/NP) headquartered in Stevens Point. W/NP posted photos of Hanson helping the program on its Facebook page, along with the statement, “It is with great sadness we share the unexpected loss of our dear George Hanson. George was an exemplary volunteer, extraordinary cookie baker, and a huge part of Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners.
“His dedication to the W/NP shipping process was relentless – always there with his truck to pick up various donations needing transport to the warehouse, regularly picking up sewing machines from Norm’s along with boxes for the warehouse, and of course George was the master loader of containers – especially good at fitting in all the bike boxes! He always brought delightful and entertaining humor to the packing and loading days, making hard work fun and enjoyable for all!”
Hanson was chair of the W/NP Finance Committee and part of the “Tireless Foursome” with his wife and Tony and Lorraine Danczyk who received an award for working together to get things done.
The W/NP tribute to Hanson concluded by saying, “George was simply a fun, amazing, kind, generous and joyful person to be around. He will be greatly missed by many and may his example live on for the rest of us.”
More recently many people met or saw Hanson when they went to Ministry St. Michael’s Hospital where he worked as a greeter at the front door.
Hanson had many other endeavors beside volunteering. He was always willing to help out his children, especially his opportunities to chauffeur military veterans who would speak at his son’s programs in Edgar.
Lately he was involved in beekeeping and marketed Hanson Honey, setting up beehives on his daughter’s property. He was also willing to talk about his beekeeping efforts to anyone who wanted to listen. And he made it entertaining.
This weekend, another UWSP trivia contest begins. Hanson played, and his team was called the Banana Slugs, the mascot for the University of California, Santa Cruz. He could tell you a story about that, too.