By Bonnee Waldstein & Elizabeth Weise
Glen Park has lost one of its characters.
Eric Hanson, who was known in part for the elaborate Grateful Dead Halloween decorations he festooned his house on Brompton with each year, died of natural causes on Wednesday, Feb. 10.
“He just seemed a big, goofy guy. His two favorite things in life were animals and children because they were just so pure and they could be happy. He really bonded with all the dogs in the neighbors. It was just pure love, that’s what that guy was, he was just pure love. He never said anything negative about anyone,” his friend Dave Donner of Chenery Street said.
Hanson was a frequent visitor to his sister’s home on Sonoma. She and her husband run Tres Hijas Winery there.
“She’d give him a bottle of wine when he visited and he always gave it to me because he didn’t drink,” said Donner.
A true local
Hanson was born and raised in San Francisco. He grew up in the Tank Hill neighborhood at the top of 17th street. He attended Twin Peaks Elementary (since renamed Rooftop) and graduated from Washington high school in 1972, said Donner.
As an adult he worked as a stevedore at the Hunter Point Naval Shipyard, “basically cleaning up toxic chemicals,” Donner said.
Hansen moved into his house on Brompton in 1982. He made his living walking dogs, power washing houses and with an enormous garage sale held on sunny weekends that covered the sidewalk in front of his house.
Hanson was very much someone who wanted to go it on his own He didn’t believe in buying things and didn’t run the heat in his house to save money, Donner said.
“He’d pick things up on the street and clean them up and sell them at his garage sales,” he said.
“In all the years of our friendship he never asked me for anything except once, and that was just a ride to the tire shop so he could get a tire patched,” he said.
Hanson was also known to neighbors as a wonderful baker who took pride in his cookies, pies and banana bread, which he happily gave out at his sales and to those who lived around him.
“He once won a prize at the Laidley Street Fourth of July bake-off,” said his neighbor Clare Thompson.
Children loved him. Hanson had painted the outlines of ladybugs on the driveway of his garage, letting kids on his block fill them in with different patterns and colors. One ladybug, his own, was in honor of the Grateful Dead, his favorite.
Hanson loved the Grateful Dead and was good friends of Jerry Garcia’s limo driver, who often got him backstage for shows. “He went to hundreds of shows,” Donner said.
He lived in a bygone era. His living room contained an enormous collection of VHS tapes be bought from the old Dr. Video store on Diamond Street when it went out of business. Rock music from the 70s and 80s wafted out his window all day. Since Hansen didn’t own a computer, a neighbor across the street took care of whatever he needed online.
Hans0n was also a rabid sports fan. Neighbors could recognize his shouts of joy or agony on Sunday afternoons while the game was on TV.
Mourning Micro, loving dogs
One of his greatest loves was dogs. Dog walkers and runners knew him well as almost every morning he was out for a walk down Chenery before 7:30, heading to Glen Canyon Park. He always had time for a cheery “Hey!” and encouraged runners and joggers with cries of “Go, go, go!” as they ran by.
Hansen lost his own dog Micro, a Great Dane, several years ago. He buried him in the green space along Bosworth and vowed to never get another dog because the pain of the loss had been too great. Instead he cared for neighbors’ and friends’ dogs, taking them for extended outings in the mornings.
That’s how his neighbors knew something was wrong, as he’d taken their dog for the day on Wednesday but did not come by to return it at 5:00 when they returned from work. At around 8:30 that night other neighbors heard barking and then a sad whining from Hansen’s house and went to investigate.
They found him dead on his living room floor. Paramedics on the scene say he had died of natural causes. Hansen was in his late 50s.
Eric is survived by his sister, Lori Goldman, his brother-in-law Avram, who live in Sonoma. He also had three nieces, two grandnephews and one grandniece.
Avram said was very moved by the outpouring of emotion by the neighbors. “I knew he did his dogwalking and his garage sales and everything but I had no idea how beloved he was. This is so touching.”
Hanson wouldn’t have wanted people to grieve for him, Donner said. “He’d want people to get outside and smell the flowers and breath the fresh air.”
As was his father before him, Hanson will be cremated. He asked that his ashes be spread over the ocean.
The family is planning a memorial service and will contact the Glen Park News when details are known. They’ll also be posted on Eric’s house.