Vice Admiral, United States Navy
Thor Hanson, a retired Navy Vice Admiral with a passion for song, died Saturday, 12 January 2008, from complications of Alzheimer's disease and congestive heart failure, his wife said Monday. He was 79.
"What he held dear is the ability to serve his country, give to it many different ways," said Charlotte Edens Hanson, 74, his wife of 51 years.
"But if he could have chosen another career, he would have been a cabaret singer."
Admiral Hanson graduated from Tucson High School as valedictorian in 1945, then went to the University of Arizona for a year.
Instead of crooning to crowds, the desert boy fulfilled another dream - traveling the world on a Navy ship. He went to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and graduated in 1950.
"He had never seen water before that," his wife said.
But it wasn't the water that attracted Admiral Hanson to the Navy; it was the stories, the adventure, she said.
"When he was a paper boy delivering the Saturday Evening Post, he came across a retired Navy Commander and became fascinated with him - Commander Parker," she said. "He would go there last every day to listen to his stories."
Those accounts propelled Admiral Hanson to England on a Rhodes scholarship. He went on to Korea, Japan, Hawaii, Brazil, Germany and - on five different tours - the Pentagon, where he served as an aide to the Secretary of the Navy and the Joint Chiefs of Staff over his 36-year career.
Admiral Hanson amassed his own cache of stories, along with an exceptional knack for telling them. "He understood people extraordinarily well," his wife said. "He controlled a room with his presence."
That quality, along with his military specialty - political military analysis - led Admiral Hanson to work as a military analyst for CNN.
Then he was ready for something really different - a decade as president and chief executive officer of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Admiral Hanson played music throughout his life, singing cabaret well into his 60s.
In his later years, he revisited his musical start. More than 60 years after he was a soloist in the Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus, he joined the group's board.
It was in the choir in the 1940s that he met lifelong friend Donald Pitt.
Pitt was drawn to Admiral Hanson for his sense of humor. "He had a way of conveying a serious message and leaving you with the feeling that it was done in a very kind way, like it wasn't an order, just what was expected," he said.
The two reunited to sing a duet at a fundraiser for the Glassman Foundation in 2006.
Julian Ackerley, director of the chorus, remembered Hanson for his strong alto as well as for his storytelling. "He always had a twinkle in his eye and a story to tell."
Admiral Hanson spent his last years back in the desert, hiking the hills around Sonoita and Tucson.
He is survived by his wife, five children and five grandchildren.
Admiral Hanson will be interred in Arlington National Cemetery in the spring. No local memorial service is lanned.The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to the University of Arizona's Sarver Heart Center.
Posted:15 January 2008