February 27, 1927 – September 7, 2019
James R. Hanson Jr. passed away on Sept. 7, 2019, in Columbus, Ohio, at the age of 92. He was born in Fremont, Nebraska, on Feb. 27, 1927, growing up at 1345 Broad Street with his sisters, Marjory and Barbara. His father, James R. Hanson, Sr., owned the Hanson Audit Company and was also elected five times to serve as Mayor of Fremont in the 1940s. Following Jim’s graduation from Fremont High School in 1944 (where he played in the jazz band under the direction of Walt Olsen, and learned to fly an airplane at the Fremont Municipal Airport), he entered Oberlin College in Ohio.
After his freshman year, he took a leave to serve as a midshipman on a Merchant Marine transport ship tasked with returning prisoners of war back to Germany from POW camps in the U.S. He returned to Oberlin at the conclusion of the war and graduated in 1949 as the president of his class. The Defiance Crescent News (Defiance, Ohio) subsequently hired him as a reporter and photographer, and in 1951 he married fellow Oberlin classmate, Portia Peters. Shortly thereafter, he was drafted into the Korean Conflict where he served as a corporal in the U.S. Army Signal Corps until 1953, making life-long friends with some of the Korean people he met while stationed there.
Jim helped one of these friends, Moon-Young Lee, come to the U.S. to receive an education. After completing his schooling, Lee returned to South Korea becoming a university professor of law and public administration. When South Korea’s democracy turned to autocratic rule in the early 1960s, Lee stood up for democracy and was subsequently imprisoned and tortured. Jim worked tirelessly for years to shine attention on Lee’s situation in order to help him gain his freedom, even getting an article published in the New York Times about Lee’s situation. Lee was eventually released and in 2000 received an award from South Korea’s democratic President Kim Dae-Jung (and Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2000) for his commitment to fighting for democracy. Lee shared this award with his loyal friend Jim.
In 1957 Jim graduated from the University of Michigan Law School, eventually moving to Columbus to work for the Ohio Water Commission doing ground water management. In 1963 he became General Counsel for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and in 1966 began working for the Ohio Legislative Service Commission as a research attorney. Jim went into private practice in 1973, providing legal counsel for various wildlife and ground water organizations such as the Ohio Water Well Association, Ohio EPA, the Wildlife Legislative Fund of America, and the Ohio Water Development Authority.
Upon his retirement in 1997, his focus turned to the many issues he cared about so passionately. He researched election trends, promoted safe bike routes in Columbus, researched family genealogy, and advocated for many peace and justice efforts in Columbus and around the world. He worked with a group of like-minded social activists to help establish a chapter of CAIR (Council on Americanslamic Relations) in Columbus which is still a robust organization 20 years later, advocating for the civil rights of American Muslims. At heart, Jim was a writer. He wrote copious letters to the editor as well as self-assigned research reports and white papers on politics and world affairs. He received multiple awards and honors for his professional work as well as his work with the Muslim community in Columbus. Also in his retirement he wrote two books: “The Nyes of Fremont” and “Jens Hansen, Blacksmith” (about the long journey of his ancestors from Denmark to Fremont, Nebraska, in the mid-1800s). Jim was a proud son of Fremont and never lost his love for his home town. He had recently subscribed to the Fremont Tribune so he could follow all news about the recent devastating flooding. It tugged at his heartstrings.
Jim is predeceased by his parents, Emma Robinson Hanson and James Rodgers Hanson Sr. (Fremont, Nebraska), as well as three siblings, Marjory Hanson (Washington, D.C.), Barbara Albert (Charlottesville, Virginia) and Richard Hanson (at age 2). Jim loved his family beyond all measure. He is survived by his beloved wife of 68 years, Portia Hanson; three daughters, Beth and Cathy Hanson of Columbus, Ohio, and Julie Reiswig and son-in-law Jeff Reiswig, D.V.M. of Newark, Ohio; grandson, Jaymz Rhime (Amy) of Austin, Texas (and three great-grandchildren Rachel, Joel, and Audrey); grandson Kevin Reiswig (Alex Chebuhar) of Port Townsend, Washington; four nephews (Curt, Mike, Richard and Gordon Albert); brother-in-law, Dr. Lynn Peters of Defiance, Ohio; the Alfred Hanson family of Oak, Nebraska, and the Dick Hanson family of Superior, Nebraska.
A service of memory will be held on Sunday, Oct. 20, at 2 p.m. in the main sanctuary of First Community Church, (1320 Cambridge Blvd., Marble Cliff OH 43212) where Jim was a member since 1967. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the James R. Hanson Fund of The Columbus Foundation (1234 E. Broad St., Columbus, OH 43205, https:/columbusfoundation.org). This fund supports the many peace and justice causes and organizations Jim cared about. Arrangements by SCHOEDINGER NORTHWEST CHAPEL. To share memories or condolences, please visit www.schoedinger.com.