I met Irv Hansen at a LIMBA meeting more than 30 years ago. From the very beginning Irv made me feel like a welcomed guest on his turf. Irv apparently said some positive things about me to Paul Townsend and Paul welcomed me as well.
Immediately I was impressed with this man who sought out others, not for what may be his personal gain, but rather to help the newcomer. I have seen this behavior played out many, many times over the years as new people came into his proximity.
He always played upon the positive aspects of people that he met and his encouragement made each of us better for having known him. His knowledge and love for Long Island was vast. His historical connection to people like Charles Lindbergh, Howard Hughes, and various other aviators made speaking to Irv an adventure in living history.
One day while we were attending one of Paul Townsend’s famous Sky Island Club luncheons Irv asked me to come to another table to meet someone. That someone was George Dade. George was one of Lindbergh’s mechanics, and a most interesting and historic character in his own right. As a result of that introduction George invited my wife Jane and I to his home and we went through the history of flight in stories that Dade made come to life.
In recent years Irv was known for organizing the rose drop over the Statue of Liberty on every anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. This ritual was begun By Joseph Stanley Hydrusko to honor the men who served and died in that tragic attack. After Hydrusko’s own tragic plane crash and death it was also to honor a special hero of that action, Joe Hydrusko himself.. Hydusko had commandeered a small boat and pulled to safety an estimated 300 men from the burning sea that was covered with escaping oil. Hydrusko then rescued another 32 men from the hull of the Oklahoma. He was one of Irv’s personal heroes, and when the Navy failed to give Joe Hydrusko the Medal of Honor, Irv went to Washington and fought with the Navy until it was granted.
Hansen treated the telling of history as if it was important. He was right, it is important. We should never forget the great deeds and sacrifices made by those that have come before us. I don’t think that he felt that way so we could be thankful, but rather, as we understand the great deeds of others we will know of the great possibilities that are in our own hands. Irv was not a man of the past, as all this history may imply; he was a man of the future. Without ever being preachy he encouraged all of us to use our intelligence and personal industry to make a better world. He never said any of those words to me, or to my knowledge anyone else, it’s just the way he led his life.
“We shall know a man by his deeds” I am not erudite enough to tell you the origin of that phrase, but the conduct of Irv Hansen’s life was, along with many other personal, attributes, a lesson in decency and loving friendships. I am so lucky to have been counted among his friends.