Harold Hansen

09/04/2012 3:22 PM |

Harold David Hansen was a great raconteur who had a funny story about every phase of life. Father to three children and grandfather to nine, he was predeceased by his first wife, June Platt Hansen, and his second wife, Roberta Ashley Hansen.

Harold Hansen

As a child in a Brooklyn elementary school, he contracted polio and spent two years in a public hospital that he loved because all the parents pooled their butter and chocolate wartime rations to make brownies for the ward. After his release, he returned to school and promptly skipped two grades because he had been able to cover so much material with a hospital tutor.

He continued to be an excellent student in high school and his teachers sent him to a speech therapist – not to improve his speech, but to get rid of his Brooklyn accent. Once, when he was driving around Brooklyn Heights with his grandchildren, he pointed out a fancy apartment building where he would kiss his girlfriend on the elevator – which he had learned to make stop between floors. After high school, he worked and attended night school at Pace University, where he majored in English.

After his graduation in 1953, he married June Platt, also of Brooklyn, and had twins, David and Valerie, in 1958. As a young married man, he started a series of office jobs that eventually led him to his lifelong profession of public relations. In the early 1960s, when the prime minister of newly independent Kenya visited the United States, Harold persuaded him to pose on a tractor and the photo made the front page of the New York Times (of the first edition; it was removed by the second edition). At this time Harold, with his business partner Van der Veer Varner, founded their own public relations firm, Attention, Inc. They soon bought the rights to publish a public relations directory listing media contacts, entitled New York Publicity Outlets, that still exists today. A native of Louisville, Van was a true fan of horse racing, and he and Harold spent many happy days at Belmont and Aqueduct and sometimes visited tracks in Baltimore, Saratoga and England as well.

The recession of the early 1970s prompted a move to Connecticut and the creation of a new company, PR Plus, also co-owned with Van Varner, which focused on media directories. Harold remained in northwest Connecticut until his retirement, where, as a Democrat, he served two terms as town selectman in Sherman and one as state senator in Hartford. He introduced the legislation for mandatory deposits on bottles that was passed after he left the state Senate. His campaign for a second state Senate term failed. Undaunted, he continued to run multiple times, always unsuccessfully, for U.S. Congress in the heavily Republican northwest corner of the state, often going to events in his beloved Bentley Silver Cloud, which he had imported from Britain.

In 1980, after the death of his first wife, he married Roberta Ashley, an editor at Cosmopolitan. Initially living with her daughter Robin, Harold and Bobbie commuted between New York and New Milford until 2002, when they moved to Peconic Landing. In retirement, Harold found much to do: running Monday movie night, playing bridge several times a week, helping to get the Metropolitan Opera to simulcast at Peconic Landing, serving as a member of the Eastern Long Island Hospital board and an elected member of the Peconic Landing cooperative board, and visiting Bobbie every day after she moved to the Shores Care Center.

He loved to take visiting family members to local restaurants in Greenport, drink two martinis, tell funny stories and tease grandchildren about their relations with the opposite sex. The year that his companion Scott Reutershan gave him singing lessons for his birthday, he placed a spoon in his mouth (that was the technique that he had learned) and started singing in the loudest voice possible – to the stunned amazement of everyone at the Porto Bello restaurant that evening.

A first stroke in mid-April 2012 was followed by a far more severe one in July. From his bed or wheelchair, a weaker Harold continued to host family members and friends. On the last Sunday he was alive, a delightfully sunny and cool day, he sat outside the front door of the Shores with his grandchildren, who were commenting on his wonderful tan. Laughing, he explained that when he was “courting” Scott he went to a tanning salon once a week for two years.

That joy in all of life’s pleasures was classic Harold, and that is how we will remember him. In the coming months, a memorial will be held in the library at Peconic Landing. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be sent to Peconic Landing Community Fund, 1500 Brecknock Road, Greenport, NY 11944-3116.

This is a paid notice.