TRAVERSE CITY — Dr. John F. Hanson, 98, passed away on Sept. 15, 2013, in Traverse City. John was born in 1915 to Nils Johan and Alma Maria Hanson and was a resident of Amherst and Ipswich, Mass., before moving to Michigan with his wife, Marie. He received his Ph.D. in entomology from UMASS, Amherst, but in actuality he had two careers. During the war John worked for Raytheon as a magnetron production engineer. His ability to examine problems from many different perspectives led to saving Raytheon production time, space and millions of dollars in costs. As a development engineer he invented the cermet cathode, central to the high-wattage magnetron that served the radar network, and the heart of the microwave oven.
Later John founded Ace Filament Company. He conducted critical surveys and technical analyses of research divisions at Tesla, Optical Micro Systems, Ceramic Coatings and Indelco. One of his tungsten projects now sits on the moon and in 1991 Raytheon invited John back for ceremonies surrounding a visit of George H. W. Bush.
The study of stoneflies, however remained John’s first calling. While still a student his first paper, “Studies on the Plecoptera of North America I” was published, and in 1945 he was UMASS’ first recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. “Doc” as he was affectionately known, taught forest entomology, morphology and taxonomy, punctuated with his expertise in genetics, physics and adaptive change. Students working late at night in the lab found it common for Doc to drop by to see if they needed assistance. His door was always open, and in his office one could always find students discussing topics of interest and sharing clever jokes. Thousands of John’s specimens are now housed in the Smithsonian, their largest collection of North American insects. Such generic patronyms as Hansonoperla honor his contributions and he was the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award at the age of 96.
John’s other passions were discovering new stonefly taxa, collecting and refurbishing antique cars, gardening, traveling, camping and hiking in the mountains with his family. In volleyball and softball he outplayed students some 20 years his junior and enjoyed tennis until he was 90. John was direct, warm-hearted and generous with his enthusiasm, encouragement and support. As a very young man he recorded the following “bucket list” of life objectives in his diary: “To do everything as best I can; to teach college; to travel and collect insects; to be active in sports; to live 100 years in perfect health.” It is a tribute to his energy and love of life that he accomplished the first four of these, written when life expectancy was a mere 62 years.
He was predeceased by Marie (DeScenza-Amoroso), his wife and partner of 72 years; daughter, Marie Saunders; brother, Per Roland Hanson; sister, Lillian Bartlett; and granddaughter, Erika Pankow.
John is missed deeply by three daughters, Trina and Joe Ball, of Empire, Patricia and Harry Joiner, and Phyllis and Bernd Pankow; seven grandchildren; 13 great-grandchildren; two great-great-grandchildren; and nephews, nieces, colleagues, loyal students, friends and care-givers who shared the wisdom, energy and stories of Marie and John during their remarkably rich 72-year journey together on this earth.