George W. Hanson, a longtime faculty member at Rye Country Day School and a World War II veteran, died May 1, 2020 at his home in Hopewell Junction, N.Y. He was 93.
Born in Port Chester, N.Y., he was the son of Hilma and Arthur Hanson, Finnish and Swedish immigrants to the United States. He grew up in the towns of Katonah and Valhalla, N.Y., and, in 1944, graduated from White Plains High School.
A World War II veteran, he served in the U.S Navy, from 1944 to1946. He was stationed in the South Pacific as a radioman, where he transcribed coded messages received in Morse Code.
Courtesy of the G.I. bill, he attended Gettysburg College for two years, from 1946 to 1948, before transferring to Columbia University, where he received a degree in History in 1950. An avid football fan, he assiduously followed the Columbia Lions for the rest of his life.
From 1952 to 1977, he taught English and History at Rye Country Day School, becoming chair of the History Department in 1964. In addition to teaching classes, he coached the soccer and ice hockey teams. A clarinet and saxophone player, he also taught Music, including wind ensembles, and ran the private music lesson program.
Mr. Hanson also taught at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Master of Arts in Teaching Social Studies Program in New Jersey, the Wappingers Central School District in New York, and Brunswick School in Greenwich, Conn.
Many of his greatest accomplishments were in the world of competitive sailboat racing. As a young boy, he learned to sail from his father on a Beetle Cat and took to it naturally. He gravitated to racing in the Star Class fleet of Western Long Island Sound as a young man. In 1956, he bought his beloved Herreshoff S Boat, Phoenix, and became a member of Horseshoe Harbor Yacht Club in Larchmont, N.Y. He liked to joke that he and Phoenix were born in the same year and at 94 years of age, she remains in the family and still races competitively in the Herreshoff S Class of Western Long Island Sound fleet. Mr. Hanson won an untold number of races and championships and led the S Boat fleet for many years.
Music was a constant in George Hanson’s life. As a teenager he formed a jazz band with his high school buddies, dubbing themselves The Hot Five. They remained friends throughout their lives. He played with many other musicians, amateurs and pros alike. In 1988, he joined The Big Band Sound, a 20-piece jazz orchestra based out of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., that recreates music from the Big Band era. George played the alto sax and performed with the band at numerous venues throughout the twenty-plus years he was with them.
A devoted and patient teacher, the thread throughout his life was to help others excel on their own. He was generous and giving with his many talents and had a tremendous impact on those he mentored. His wit was renowned and always hinted at his inner thoughts; indeed, he used it to educate, elevate, and inspire an interest in History.
He is survived by his son, George Eric Hanson and daughter-in-law, Danielle, also of Hopewell Junction; and his stepdaughter, Cindy MacMillan of Chadds Ford, Pa., and her two children, Ronald and Kenneth Mazik. He is also survived by his cousins, the Wenzel family of Rye; his close friend and companion Alice Hall of Franklin, N.Y., and scores of sailing colleagues, band mates, friends, and students he taught throughout the years. He was predeceased by his wife, Elisabeth Hanson, and by his first wife, Esther Anne Wiley.
A Memorial service will be scheduled once gathering restrictions are lifted. In the interim, donations may be made in his memory to the Jane Goodall Institute (www.janegoodall.org), the ASPCA (www.aspca.org), or the Public Broadcasting Service (www.pbs.org).