Thursday, December 28, 2017

Donald G Hansen RIP 10 May 1910 - 28 Dec 1959

On Sunday night, December 27th, we all went to bed as usual. It had been a wonderful holiday weekend.  There were Christmas presents to open, a family dinner complete with mom’s good china and silver. The biggest hit of the weekend was probably the new pool table which resided in the basement. The basement that Dad had been converting from the typical Victorian cellar, complete with octopus furnace and coal bin to a rec room for all of us.

As was usual in our house, lights were out by 10:30 pm. Sometime after midnight, mom woke me up whispering “Donna, can you get up? I think Dad is having a heart attack.” As I went downstairs and into their bedroom, I could hear what sounded like very heavy snoring. Later I would learn that it was the last air escaping from his lungs. 

In the days before 911, you dialed the operator to get to emergency services, I think it was the fire department that provided these services. I will never forget that they wanted to know who to send the bill to before they would contact the ambulance. The next call was to our family doctor, who came to the house immediately. Dr. Cahill was both a family friend and our physician and it was his unfortunate duty to pronounce my dad’s death. I am not sure, but I think he also called the undertaker for mom and meet with the emergency personnel.

Not all, but some of the other kids were awakened by the comings and goings. They mostly hung out on the stairs which were just outside of mom and dad’s bedroom. When the undertaker came to remove dad’s body, it was determined that mom would go to the funeral parlor later that day to make the arrangements for his wake and funeral. When the undertaker was ready to move the body, mom asked me to take the kids upstairs, so they wouldn’t need to watch that.

The funeral arrangements were made at the funeral home one ½ block from our house, which was fortunate since nobody, but dad was a driver then.
The little I remember of the wake, or visitation, was that I surprised at how many people knew my dad.  Of course, his mother and sister as well as my mother’s brothers and sisters were there but there were so many others. Sure, I knew he had friends but even some of his high school classmates came to honor him.

The people in our community were so generous and giving that I am sure we had donated food in half the freezers in town. The church was packed on the day of the funeral, complete with a large contingent of Adrian Dominican nuns. Leaving the church after the funeral, I saw them with their white habits and black veils and cloaks standing towards the rear of the church. My thought at the time was “They look like a herd of penguins”. Inappropriate I know, but such is the mind of a seventeen-year-old.

I have written this for my younger siblings because I know that they have different memories of this event that was such a major event in our lives. Dad’s death and our individual reactions to it, no doubt had large part in shaping the people we are today. Let me say that I couldn’t be prouder of each and every one of them and the outstanding people they are.