Story by Bonnee Waldstein & Elizabeth Weise
Eric Hanson’s family in Sonoma has been “overwhelmed” by the outpouring of emotion in Glen Park over his death, his brother-in-law Avram Goldman told the Glen Park News.
Goldman came by Hanson’s house on Brompton Street Friday around mid-day and found a makeshift memorial and a crowd of Hanson’s friends outside.
“Just while I was there I met probably five or six neighbors. All the flowers, all the messages, it was overwhelming,” he said.
Hanson, 61, died in his home on Wednesday, Feb. 10.
While the family knew that Hanson was well liked, “I don’t think we knew how well he was loved,” Goldman said. “Someone told me he was like the mayor of Glen Park. He knew everybody, he touched people in different ways.”
The knowledge has been a comfort to his sister Lori and family, Goldman said.
“I knew Eric had a big heart, that’s just who he was, he’d give you the shirt off his back. But to be loved like that—it’s such a gift to us to know about it.”
He plans to bring Eric’s nieces to the house “so they can see how much their uncle was loved.”
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 his friend his friend Dave Donner of Chenery Street said.
After high school he went to Hawaii for a few years, but then returned to San Francisco.
His father Howard Hanson was a longshoreman, he helped Eric get job. He worked as a welder and worked for many years repairing shipping container at the Port of Oakland.
“He had an accident at work and his knee got hurt, and he couldn’t work any longer. That was probably about 11 years ago,” said Goldman.
He also worked at the Hunters 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.
Holidays a favorite
Hanson loved holidays. He was especially known in Glen Park for the elaborate Grateful Dead Halloween decorations he lovingly crafted in front of his house each. It was a huge hit with neighborhood children, who flocked to see what he’d come up with.
But He didn’t just love Halloween. Thanksgiving and Christmas were also favorites.
“He’d dress up as Santa and go around and give out presents,” said Goldman. “He was a kid at heart.”
Howard Hanson was Swedish and Danish, so at Christmas time the family would always drink the Scandinavian spirit aquavit with brunch. Aquavit is traditionally served chilled and Goldman would freeze a bottle in a solid block of ice with sliced fruit and dill embedded in it as a decoration.
“But Eric would do cartoon characters and plastic figurines. My grandkids would just love it. When the ice would melt he ‘d give them the figurines,” he said.
A man who went this own way
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 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.
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 was good friends of Jerry Garcia’s limo driver, who often got him backstage for shows. “He went to hundreds of shows,” Donner said.
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.
“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.
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.
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.