Memorial Service

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Pastor David Plank:

We are here today to honor the life of Ralph Hanson.

Our tributes are many. But I think I’ll begin with the tribute found upon this flower card…. "We love you", and then, members of his family. Do we not all pay that same tribute, this hour?

I have an aunt who lives in Annapolis, Maryland, close on the Severen River, overlooking the Naval Academy. And Aunt Marion is 97 years old, lives all by herself. And I call every morning, just to make sure she’s all right. And I called this morning, my usual call, a short conversation that ended in saying "Goodbye, Aunt Marion", and she ended her conversation, as she always does, "David, I love you."

Is there a better way to say goodbye, than to say, "I love you"? Do we not, with those same three words this morning, say goodbye to Ralph? Indeed we do, indeed we do.

Does your heart not also pay a tribute of gratitude this morning? As you think of Ralph’s well-traveled journey of 82 years, and that portion of his journey that you too shared, are you not grateful for that privilege? Are you not thankful for the many ways in which he touched your life with his kindness, his goodness, his thoughtfulness, his caring? Were you not touched by his stainless example, did that not also bless your life…. his example of honor, integrity, fairness, courage? Oh you knew him well; why should I tell you what you know? I'm just reminding you of some of the ways in which your heart says "Thank You". Thankful for those, I think of the children and Amy, you’re grateful for those parts of him, those parts of him that in a very real way, live and grow within you this very morning. Thankful for all that he gave you; he contributed, so greatly, so significantly to your life, to your welfare, to your happiness. Ah yes, we come to say "I love you", we come to say "I thank you, Ralph". The many, many ways in which you blessed and graced my life.

Do we not come also to honor Ralph, as a man who loved his country, and served proudly beneath her waving flag? He began his navy career in the summer of 1939 as a plebe in the Naval Academy. He put in three years instead of the usual four because the war shortened his service; he graduated on the nineteenth of June 1942, and there began his Navy career, that ended thirty years later. Six ships, eight shore duty stations. You read that wonderful biography that his son David put on the Internet, paragraphs and paragraphs, of the places and islands that he served on or visited, so we won’t go through all of them. But an illustrious naval career; in fact, you see the ribbons, he was given honors, you see the meritorious commendation for the Asiatic Pacific Campaign, for China Service, for the Philippine Liberation, for Vietnam, the American Defense Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the National Defense Medal, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, they go on and on and on. How greatly honored this man has been by his country, and now this morning it is our privilege to honor him as an American hero, as a member of the greatest generation.

As certainly we come this morning to renew our hope in life everlasting, for we are people of faith. Do we not believe in that same God, who every springtime, awakens Nature from her winter sleep, and also faithfully awakens His children from their final sleep, we believe that, don’t we? Do we not believe that when Ralph closed his eyes in sleep before us, last Sunday, that he awakened in the presence of God? Do we not believe that he is now in a land where partings have ended, and there is no pain, no sorrow, no grief, no crying? Where the moon no longer wanes and the sun no longer sets? Ah, yes, we believe that, don’t we? He is in the presence of God, and in the presence of God, whose presence one day, we will share, for that day will come, that day of God’s choosing, when our hearts will be reunited, we’ll know his embraces, his love, his laughter; and hearts, separated for a time, are once again eternally reunited. Ah, yes, we renew our hope this morning here in this service, we believe that, in the falling of our tears, God has traced a rainbow in the person, the promise of Jesus, who said, "I am the resurrection, and the life. He who believes in me, never dies." Ah, yes, dear friends, be comforted by this hope, which we renew this morning. Comforted by our hope and comforted in prayer, "Eternal Father strong to save, remove from us this hour the raiment of sorrow, of grief, of sadness, of tears, and clothe us please with Heaven’s garments of comfort, of peace, of strength, of hope renewed in life everlasting, and yes, with the sure and certain comforts that this dear man we will see again, and with him we will be forever reunited, in the Master’s name, Amen."

There are so many portions of this good book, in fact I am reading from my Naval Academy New Testament, which many of you may recognize, that these are given to the mids in their senior year, by the Maryland Bible Society. I’ve been using this little book ever since I was the senior chaplain there in ’68 to ’72, and from this Naval Academy New Testament I’ll read the 23rd Psalm. But you’ll hear it this morning as you’ve never heard it before; you’ve heard it so often in the past, you know it by heart… "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want." You learned it in Catechism, in confirmation class, Sunday school, at grandmother’s knee, as the words of David. But this morning you’ll hear them as you’ve never heard before, as you’ll never hear them again. For you hear them not as David’s words, for listening with your heart, listening with ears of faith, you’ll now hear Ralph Hanson speaking his personal testimony made to you:

"The Lord is my shepherd, I do not want. He makes me now to lie down in green pastures, He leads me now beside still waters, He has restored my soul. He has revived my life. He leads me on path of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though on Sunday I walked through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, please know there was no fear because the Lord, my Heavenly Father was with me during my journey to eternity. His rod and his staff, they comforted me. He prepares now a table before me. He anoints my head with the oil of gladness. The cup of my life overflows with goodness, with mercy, with the love of my family and my friends." And finally please hear Ralph exclaim: "And I now dwell in the House of the Lord forever."

And I now dwell in the House of the Lord forever. No longer 754 Neptune Court, it just says "My Father’s house". And our Lord Jesus on the last night of his life in the upper room spoke words of beautiful imagery that further comfort our hearts, for Jesus said "and in my Father’s house". He opens the door for me and we look in, and there are many mansions, many wonderful places of abode. And Jesus says, "I leave you now, I’m going to heaven to prepare a place for Ralph, and for you, and for you, and for you. That where I am, there we may live together, forever". Ah, yes. Ralph Hanson is in the Father’s house, where having seen the face of God he has been filled with joy, we are told. For he enjoys the hospitality of Heaven, God prepares that table before him forever. Where he is being embraced by the infinite love of God, a love far greater than our own. And where he awaits that wonderful day, which we mentioned already, where all of us here will be reunited with him.

May we by God’s promises, be comforted this morning.

Ralph’s alma mater was the United States Naval Academy. At the close of our service we are going to play the Navy Hymn. A lovely refrain that is played at the end of every service that takes place in that chapel, regardless of what service that may be. The very end of every service, everyone kneels. When he was there, that chapel would be filled with 2700 midshipmen, faculty, visitors, and staff. Almost 3000 people kneeling, and you hear the Navy hymn played slowly, and prayerfully. We end our service with the Navy Hymn. But now, just a quiet time of reflection, when we sing the song of his alma mater, "Navy Blue and Gold". Sung after football games, and after gatherings in the field house, this kind of thing. If you’re from the Naval Academy you’ll remember this lovely refrain, and the words will accompany them as you fall to silence. But in any event, let this lovely music that is dear to his past, the Naval Academy days, enrich these moments as you reflect upon Ralph, his life, and what he meant to you, and may your heart, as you so think, be filled with gratitude and love. Amen.

The last few words of that Naval Academy song, that midshipman’s song, are "Proud are sailors to wear the Navy blue and gold." And he was proud to wear the Navy blue and gold, indeed he was. He was Navy through and through. Before Roger and others share with us what is upon their heart this morning, just let me share a few reflections on his life.

At the Naval Academy there is a window that is called the "Dual Commission Window". Can you recall that window? The Dual Commission Window, facing the alter, up to the right? By Tiffany of New York, and it shows an ensign, reading his orders, and on a flagpole high to his right and behind him is the American flag, and superimposed upon a cloud is our Lord Jesus, and it is called the "Dual Commission Window". And it speaks of every midshipman’s commission, every graduate of the Naval Academy’s commission, to be obedient not only to the authority of his country as symbolized by the flag, but obedient to the authority of God. He took that dual commission when he graduated on the 19th of June 1942, and he was faithful to it throughout his life. Truly he was an officer and a gentleman, he was an officer of honor, he was an officer of stainless character, of courage, of duty, of fidelity, and he was a gentle man. A gentle man. A patient man. A man of forbearance. A man of kindness. A man of understanding. Yes, indeed. Ralph, during his 82 years was faithful to the dual commission to country and to God that he took on the 19th of June 1942.

Another reflection, before Roger speaks, on that wonderful website that David provided for all of us, he mentions getting into the Naval Academy. And he wasn’t the principal appointment, he wasn’t the first alternate, he was the second alternate. The principal lost out because of eyesight, the first alternate lost out because of grades, and he made it. And he talks about the six exams he took for getting into the Naval Academy, not the normal three for most entering, but he had to take six. He said one of the six exams was geometry. And part of the geometry exam was to prove ten theorems, and he said, "I didn’t prove one". But he spent his later life just playing around with theorems, trying to prove theorems. Right, Ann, Karen? Trying to make up for those theorems that he didn’t prove when he had that exam trying to get into the Naval Academy.

Why do I say that? Why do I mention that? Why do I tell you that he wasn’t the first in his class? He wasn’t the first in his class, and he wasn’t a principal appointment to the Naval Academy. Which says to me a marvelous thing about this man. He made the most of his best. He took the talents that God gave him, and he maximized them. By hard work, and by diligence, and by faithfulness, and by devotion to his dual commission to God and country. A man of determination, of perseverance, this part of this man that we proudly remember and honor this day.

And now before I say too much, Roger, and step on your toes, won’t you please come forward and honor us with your words.

Roger Gugger:

Good morning everyone. Swede Hanson was my friend. He was my neighbor for seventeen years. He was also my teacher, he was my mentor. Part of me has to apologize to the Hanson family today because, Ann, Karen, Tom, David, Amy…. I stole a little thing from all of you along the way. I had to be around Swede. He was the neighborhood handyman. He was always there, willing to help any of us, at any time. Whether it was the Escandons, the Paschoals, the Kingstons, or the Guggers. Now a lot of things I could fix myself. But it was always easier to go down to Swede and say "Hey, Swede, I need your hand." He knew what I really was after. Because here I was, a four year lieutenant in the Navy when I moved next door to Swede. And he knew that I wanted to go up that ladder, just like he had.

So I wanted to be around him, he just oozed quality, he oozed standards of excellence. We would be in his garage and he would pull out things like tools that his father had had. And he’d say, "see Roger, see how I’ve oiled all these handles, see the precision with which my father had kept his tools and now it’s my duty to do this". Everything that Swede did with me was like a lesson. And I was greatly enriched by my time and association with Swede. I called up a week ago and talked to Karen and said, "you know Karen, I almost feel compelled to stand up before you and say a few words about Swede. Because he meant so very much to me, and he meant so much to everybody in our neighborhood. He was without question the finest man I’ve ever known. Swede had such marvelous personal qualities. His honesty, his integrity, his forthright nature, even his self-effacing nature. I remember one time I was at Karen and Ann’s house, Swede was reading a piece of literature and a word popped up, a French word. And as he pronounced it as "pot-pour-re" and Karen quickly corrected Swede and said, "no Dad, that’s potpourri". Instantly Swede began laughing that boisterous, belly-full laugh of his, and said, "yea, it is potpourri and I’ll try not to make that mistake again"!

I remember a call I had to make one time, it involved David. David was 23-24 years old and he had his first shiny car, a beautiful silver RX-7. And David decided to go out and test that car on Telegraph Canyon road when it was only a two lane road. I think he hit about 70 miles per hour when he lost control, flipped end over end, and for awhile as David was rushed to the hospital, we didn’t know if he’d made it. I was in the neighborhood, and Swede was at the Hall of Champions, no one had called Swede yet. I said, "I’ll make the call", and I did. I said, "Swede, David’s been in a terrible accident". The first words out of Swede’s mouth were, "did he make it, is he alive"? And I said, "Swede, I don’t know, all I know is that it was a bad accident." And at that point in time, the next words that came out of his mouth were, "well I just want to know, because I want to be able, en-route to the hospital, to prepare my family". His courage and his nature, even as I told him his son may or may not be alive, at that moment was so remarkable to me.

Swede was a tremendous handyman. He would fix things in our neighborhood all the time. I remember one occasion when our dryer had broken. And of course, Swede thought he could fix anything and everything. So he came up, and two hours later we had the dryer unbuttoned and supposedly fixed, and closed back up again and it still wouldn’t work. So he picked up the wrench and started to take it apart again and I said, "Swede, what are you doing? This blankety-blank thing, I’ll have to get someone to fix it". And he said, "Roger, there’s really only two things in life you can ever do: this and that. Right now, we’re doing this"! At that moment in time, he was my teacher and he was saying, "Roger, patience is a virtue. We can do this." One of his qualities was his indefatigable "can-do" attitude. "Can’t" was not in his language.

In 1984 I was working on my Masters Degree and I had a tough course, Parametric Statistical Analysis, and it was a take home final, and all you scholars know what take home finals are, it was extraordinarily tough. There were two problems, that I spent hours and hours and hours trying to figure out and couldn’t get out the answers. And I thought, "geez, I just want a 'B'. Maybe I should go down and ask Swede". I called him up and he said, "sure, come on down", and I went down there and laid out the problems, and he solved both of them within five minutes. A man in his 60’s solving two tough, tough problems. I said, "Swede, how in the world could you possibly do this"? And he said, "well, you know nothing in life is tough if you know the answer".

Is there an Admiral here, a retired Admiral? Oh, that’s good! Because I’m about to tell you something. I went up personally through the rank of Commander, and that was about it for me, it was all I could do. I couldn’t make Captain because I didn’t have the stuff of being a Captain. Now, I’ll admit that in front of my own family. Swede Hanson made seven ranks, he commanded thousands of men and women, he served in three wars. He was off the coast of Iwo Jima, and please, please read the book about Iwo Jima, where those people were killed, The Flags of our Fathers is the name of the book, please read the book. He was there. I will tell you, all of you, right now: Swede Hanson should have been an Admiral, without any question in my mind, he should have been an Admiral. I wondered and wondered, how could this man, with all of his qualities not make Admiral? And one day it dawned on me, it’s not that Swede did not make Admiral, it was that I think that Swede chose not to be an Admiral. Because you see, when you elevate yourself to flag rank in the Navy, enter stage right, and I’m not saying this is wrong, believe me, but with that enter stage right comes some politics. And the necessity becomes somewhat pragmatic in life, to bend, to do certain things that you have to do in that position. And again, that’s not wrong, but Swede Hanson couldn’t waiver. He had such solid moral fiber, and standards of excellence and mores and principles that I think he made the decision "as a Naval Officer, I can’t be pragmatic, I can’t waiver and bend. I have to be straight on course." And I think the truth is that Swede did things, or did not do things, necessary to become political and thereby become selected as Admiral. And I think that was his choice, I firmly believe that.

I made a list concerning Swede’s personal character. Personal character is the sum total of what we are and what we represent in life, they’re our own standards. Swede Hanson’s principles and character were second to none. Every day I knew Swede, he stood tall in terms of his honesty, integrity, self-reliance, his worth ethic, his tolerance for others, his resourcefulness, his devotion to his family, his love of country, his absolute total pursuit of excellence, his patience, patience of a saint, his moral fiber, and his humility. There are two things in my recollection that I never heard Swede say, or do. I never once heard Swede Hanson utter a disparaging or belittling comment about any human being. And I never heard him swear. Think about it. Now he loved to party, and he’d have a few, as he called it, "libations", and finally after a few years I got him to take down this sign in his den of his house that said (you see, I was a naval aviator and his brother Ken was a naval aviator) which said: "Airedales are the crab-grass on the lawn of humanity". And I think finally, out of respect for me, he took that sign down and said, "you know, you aviators are okay". I’ve talked many times to Karen. Amy I didn’t know so well because you were young and growing up during that time, but boy, he was proud of you and your pursuits. And I talked to Tom before the service. Tom was the only one I didn’t have to say much to, as he would come home on occasion. Why? Because I didn’t have to. I would take one look at Tom, and Tom would look at me, and there were thousands of unwritten words spoken instantly about his father. He knew what I was after and I knew what he was after, because we were trying to walk in those footsteps and we knew what a tough battle that would be all the way, while Tom was in the Army and I was in the Navy. Finally, Ann Hanson, it was not mistake that he married you, what a wonderful, kind, thoughtful woman you are. He picked his bride carefully and I know he loved her very much. The final thing I want to say to this family, Ann, Tom, Karen, and Amy.... David - sorry -  is: "Thank you, thank you over and over and over again for sharing your father, Ralph "Swede" Hanson with us. A tremendous man, a tremendous human being. We are all so very, very lucky to have loved and known him."

Pastor David Plank:

Just a few footnotes Roger to what you so beautifully said. You spoke about his picking Ann so carefully. He picked her over 60 years ago. They were engaged in March of 1942 and married September 30, 1943, so this coming September they will have been married 59 years. In addition to everything else, Ralph was a promise keeper, wasn’t he, Ann? And you mentioned his neighborhood that he loved so much. Neptune Court was his neighborhood. A court of about maybe 10, 12 homes. He could have chosen James Court, Margo Court, Clearney Court. He could have chosen any one of about six courts, but he chose Neptune Court, the God of the Sea. Does that make good sense? And now we invite you to participate in this moment of honor, with some memory or something you are thinking about and further bless us in this hour.

David Hanson:

Forgive me if I read this. Roger pretty much said everything and said it very well, thank you. And like Roger, I believed that my Dad was the finest man that I’ve ever known. And I’m not just saying that because he was my dad. He really was an extraordinary person. He was a great leader, and he was the best husband and father.

He was the person that everyone could depend on to get things done. Whether it was developing a new method for delivering nuclear weapons to naval ships at sea, or being the helpful neighbor who could install your sprinkler system or fix a child’s bike, my Dad could do it, and do a great job of it.

Everything that he did, he did well, and he usually enjoyed the challenge of the problem. For him, every day was a fresh opportunity to accomplish something or to help someone. This is why one of his favorite greeting expressions was, "Another day to excel!"

He was, and still is, my hero. I love him, and miss him greatly. God bless you, Dad.

Pastor David Plank:

Anyone else? While you’re thinking, When he was stationed at and CO for the ammunition depot at McAlester, OK, the then Governor of Oklahoma, Governor Bartlett, proclaimed the 23rd of February, 1970 to be "Captain Ralph Hanson Day". The 23rd of February, just 19 days away from us, I would hope that on the 23rd of February of this year, and every year, you’ll give a special salute to this lovely man. And remember him with the love and gratitude we have heard here this day. Anyone else?

Karen Hanson Yarger:

I was going though my dad’s papers in preparation for making the photo montage, and going all his files and as you know, in addition to his autobiography that he wrote, and probably gave copies to most of you here, he was a great collector of thoughts, poems, prayers, things that meant something to him personally. One is, in fact, on the board back there and talks about attitude. This one I found, it’s by Alfred Mountor and it’s called. "A Successful Man":

"He has achieved success, who has lived well,
laughed often, and loved much.
Who has enjoyed the trust of pure women,
The respect of intelligent men, and the love of little children.
Who has filled his niche and accomplished his task,
Who has left the world a better place that he found it,
Who has always looked for the best in others,
And given them the best he had.
His life was an inspiration, his memory a benediction."

By every measure, my father was a successful man. And we’ll all miss him but are better for having known him. I love you Daddy.

Carol Paschoal:

This is for Swede. All spoken so eloquently about who he was and what he’s given us. And we have that in our hearts. But I want to introduce a little levity into the memorial. Because of Swede, we all laughed a little more and took ourselves a little less seriously. If you chose to buy a home anywhere other than Neptune Court, you missed a great blessing. We’ve all grown up together and Swede was our father, where we had dad’s who were either gone or living across the country. Or grandfather to our children who didn’t know their grandfathers. We knew a lot about patriotism, before 9-11. One of our favorite things was our 4th of July block party. Sue Gugger organized our children who sang patriotic songs every year. We just didn’t raise our flags, we went the whole 9 yards. We had a lot of military officers on that street who taught us to fly our flags years and years ago. We’ve been through births together, anniversaries, weddings, the loss of our dear neighbor, Janet Wallace, who died in her 30’s, we still grieve in our hearts for her but know she is safe and we can wake up in the morning and say, "yes, this is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it", and then Swede’s voice would say, "It is another day to excel, get out there and do your best work"! We have been totally blessed, and I’m ashamed of all of you guys who have forgotten Swede’s favorite drinking toast. Because we grew up enjoying the hospitality of one another’s homes, and one another’s hearts. And we have that forever. But come on guys, Swede would get up here and taught us this from the very beginning. And coming from me, forgive me, please:

"I’ll drink to the girls who will,
and I’ll drink to the girls who won’t,
But there’s one girl out there I’ll never drink to,
and that’s the girl who says she will and then she won’t.
But there’s one girl I’ll drink to far into the night,
and that’s the girl who says she never has,
but just for me, she might!"

Now, that’s for Swede Hanson, and that’s totally Swede. And you could hear him laughing! And that smile on his face, we would never leave a gathering without rejoicing in the love that God gives through other human beings because Swede was an encourager, and he encouraged us every day of our lives. Goodbye, Swede.

Pastor David Plank:

What’s your name please? (Carol Paschoal.) If you’d like a copy of that toast, see Carol afterwards! We know for sure that his sense of humor failed him only one time. His ship pulled into one of the filthiest harbors on the face of God’s earth, the harbor of Izmir, Turkey. They’re going on liberty, the liberty boat pulls up to the pier, and as he is about to step onto the pier, the boat is somehow pulled by the tide away from the pier and he falls into this filthy dirty garbage-strewn water. And he says to the guys on the liberty boat: "If one of you so much as cracks a smile, there’s no liberty for you for one month!"

After this final prayer, we ask you to please bow your heads as you hear reverently played, as at the Naval Academy after a service, the Navy Hymn. Merciful Father, to whose house of many mansions thy child and servant did go when he closed his eyes in sleep. With gentle arms now please enfold him, with loving eyes now behold him, with arms of mercy and forgiveness we ask you to embrace him, that Ralph may go from strength to strength in your perfect service, grant to this, your beloved child, a royal welcome to paradise and to your kingdom. May angels escort him to the Father’s house and to that room prepared for him by Jesus. And may choirs of angels sing him to his rest. And now we pray that all of us here, his family, his friends, all those beloved to him may be embraced by the love of our Lord Jesus, the peace of God, and the comfort of His Spirit, for in the Master’s name we pray. Amen.

(Navy Hymn played here)

You are now invited to the lawn for full military honors. If you are closer to the door to the rear, you may wish to leave by that door and gather on the lawn to your right.


(Traditional military honors were given, including the gun salute, the playing of taps, and the presentation of the folded flag to Ann Hanson.)