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Hansen, Kenneth A. & Florence (Anderson-Cather)

by Florence Hansen

Kenneth A. Hansen was born in 1930. He was the youngest of seven children born to Arthur and Lilly Hansen up Squilchuck Road just outside of Wenatchee, Washington. The family had humble beginnings but were rich in musical talents and love for each other. Living on a small ranch the family worked hard raising several kinds of fruits and animals. Young Ken worked with this dad and became familiar with farm machinery which he enjoyed. He picked cherries and apricots and finally had enough to purchase his own Indian motorcycle!

Ken had two brothers who were living in Alaska. They encouraged him to put a trip to Alaska in his future plans. After graduating from Wenatchee High, the slogan “North to Alaska” became a reality. Ken, with three friends, in a World War II Jeep and $100 drove to Edmonton, Canada, and up the original, rugged, scenic Alaska Highway. Along the way they camped out at night and discovered several hot springs, perfect for swimming and washing clothes. After the eight day trip they drove into Anchorage. They found jobs to make extra money and Ken enjoyed an added trip to Circle City and Fairbanks, enjoying the midnight sun before driving to Juneau with his brother, Wesley.

In 1950, Ken found employment with the Juneau Sawmill, owned by Tom Morgan. The first day on the job was most educational. It started to rain, rain and more liquid sunshine. He waited for co-workers to call it a day, but work continued. In Eastern Washington a rainy day was a “day off.” The following day he was properly outfitted with southeast gear. When the mill closed Ken’s next job was with Bert McDowell’s grocery store on Seward Street. Finally, a job on the water came along and he went to work on the 115 foot, fully equipped floating medical clinic, the M/V Hygiene. Nurse, Kitty Gair and Chief Engineer, Angus Gair, were two of the valuable crew. The Hygiene traveled throughout Southeast Alaska that summer before returning to its homeport of Juneau.

Ken’s former experience with heavy equipment led to a job with Lemon Creek Sand & Gravel owned by Bill Manthey, whose foreman was Grant Ritter. Ken was involved with the excavation of the following: the Juneau Memorial Library; original Cedar Park low-income housing, which included the construction of Cordova Street, off of Douglas Highway; and construction of the Haines ferry dock. In 1960, Juneau rebuilt its water system, which took three years. Ken claims to have served 1,200 houses and businesses.

In 1950, Ken met his future wife Florence. They married in 1952, and had four children. They decided to purchase Ken’s first Case Backhoe and form the Ken Hansen Excavating Company, specializing in utilities, water and sewer. In time, they owned the first Juneau Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise which was managed by their eldest son Kenny Gene, who hired young people and gave them a chance to build confidence, self-esteem and integrity.

In 1970, Ken saw the opportunity for construction of the first mini-storages in the valley, which proved to be a service to the community. Ken also built the Greenwood Subdivision located on Twin Lakes. Ken enjoyed volunteering labor for community projects such as working with Ladd Macaulay in the beginnings of the Douglas Island Pink and Chum fish hatcheries. The first experiment was on Cowee Creek, second was located
at Thane and the third became DIPAC, located at Salmon Creek. He enjoyed being on the Johnson Children’s Home Board of Directors and the Bethel Assembly of God Board for fifteen years. He was involved with the constructing of four Assemblies of God churches. He always enjoyed family projects, hunting, fishing and grandchildren and on a summer day he might be seen rolling down the highway with a grandchild on the back seat of his Harley-Davidson motorcycle encouraging him, “Go faster Grandpa, more corners!”

Florence Hansen was born during the Depression of 1929, in Wrangell, Alaska, to Henry E. and Charlotte Blake Anderson. She was the second of four children. Her father migrated from Frederikstad, Norway, on a fishing boat which sailed to San Francisco and on up to Alaska where in time he met his future bride, Charlotte who was Tlingit Indian and of the Naanya.aay Clan of Wrangell. She was also of the matrilineal family of Chief Shakes VII and Chief Shakes V. Her parents, George and Eva Blake, were charter members of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Sisterhood. George was a court reporter during early Territorial days in Juneau.

The family moved to Juneau in 1938, and Florence learned a bit about discrimination since she was a halfbreed and neither the Indian school or the white school wanted to accept the children. Times grew troublesome during that time and the children were separated. Three children went to the MinField Children’s Home at Lena Beach. During that time, their mother passed away leaving a grieving father to support a nine year old, seven year old and two year old. Their father had varied talents. He was a carpenter, painter and could play several musical instruments. However, alcohol took its toll and drastic changes took place. He passed on in 1950.

While at the Arketa Children’s Home, on December 7, 1941, it was announced that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. Looking down the dark channel from mile seven Glacier Highway toward Juneau, only a very few lights flickered. It was chilly and all stood close to the wood stove. Though the oil lamps shed light, a dark fear gripped Florence as she missed her mom, and her dad was not there to comfort her. A young missionary had come to work in the home and she cared deeply for the children. Christmas was lonely and she seemed to sense those fears. She told about the Christ of Christmas and why He was the reason for the season. She told Florence that if she wanted to ask Jesus into her heart, “She would never be alone again because Jesus would stay right with her.” That was sixty years ago and Florence’s future has been brighter in many situations since that turning point in her life.

During WWII, the Glacier Cather’s Children’s Home left Juneau aboard a steamer heading out over the Alaska Gulf. They were in the Gulf for three days, the blackout still in effect and some of the children were seasick. They sailed into Seward, took the old railroad into Anchorage and on to Wheezily, where they bought bread for 25 cents a loaf, then on to Fish Creek, which was a long drive. They finally reached their destination with millions of small bugs to greet them! An educational summer in the wild was spent before moving to Palmer, Alaska, where the Cather Children’s Farm Home was built. The children were adopted into the Cather family.

Florence left the home when she turned seventeen. She still had two years before finishing high school. She worked in the Wrangell fish cannery, did menial jobs and stayed with an older couple exchanging housework for her room. She was determined to finish school. She enjoyed helping and singing at the little Assembly of God mission. A lady friend loaned her a twelve base small accordion which she spent many hours learning to play. On her eighteenth birthday a group of young friends gave her a surprise party and presented her with an instrument she grew to love and play for the next twenty-five years. She enjoyed playing in church, hospitals, jail services and for other occasions. In time, she was able to purchase a 120 base accordion.

In 1948, she came to Juneau where she worked as a file clerk for the Territorial Department of Taxation. She was grateful for valuable lessons that year and graduated in May. At Baccalaureate, it was a special privilege for her to sing, The End of a Perfect Day! She continued to work for the Department of Taxation for six years and became a secretary.

In 1950, she met her future husband, Kenneth A. Hansen, at a church service. They were married in December 1952. They became guardians of Florence’s fifteen year old sister. Life continued to be more than she could have dreamed and soon they signed papers and became owners of a lovely home on Twelfth Street. The home was complete with everything, plus a piano! Their home was blessed with two boys and two girls. An unwelcome blow hit the family when at twenty-eight years, Florence was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and given twenty-four months before being in a wheelchair. With prayer, a loving husband, children and friends, she was encouraged to take one day at a time, went on to take business courses, and life continued. She worked for the last Territorial Legislature and the State Legislature for five years typing the Daily Journal for the House of Representatives. She enjoyed providing trio music with Ruth Summers and Ramona Ignell for many community events, as well as the Bethel Assembly’s annual Singing Christmas Tree. A significant highlight was when Statehood was commemorated on July 4 in Juneau. After the new 49-star flag was raised, a 49-shot aerial bomb volley saluted the new flag. The hush was broken by the unaccompanied voices of the Harmonette Trio singing Alaska’s Flag, the official song of the State. Marie Drake, who wrote the poem, and Benny Benson, the designer of Alaska’s flag, were present.

Florence, with pianist, Ramona Ignell, directed a 36 member children’s choir. For ten years, the children enjoyed singing at community events in Juneau as well as in other towns, bringing messages of hope through their music. Florence and Ramona formed the Maranatha Tlingit Singers, which performed at Governor Jay Hammond’s prayer breakfast and traveled to Fairbanks to take part in the annual Alaska Assemblies of God district council. It was a joy to sing in the Tlingit language.

In January, 1985, Ken and Florence’s son Ken passed on, but his wife, Amanda, carried out their earlier plans of going on to Bible school. She remarried and with her daughter Katelynn, now lives in Missouri where she and Dan minister in a growing church. Chris, Ken and Florence’s older daughter, is the mother of two grown daughters and is a dental assistant at SEARCH Clinic, and travels with her second job as unit coordinator with Princess House Crystal. Son, David and wife Cynthia, are co-captains of their vessel Access Alaska, from which they charter fishing trips. They also own and operate the Vintage Fare Restaurant. Younger daughter, Heather, is the mother of three and is employed with SEARCH administration. The family helps Florence set up for her “Roses, Ribbons and Lace Keepsakes” craft shows.

Though Florence has experienced eleven joint replacements, her faith in God, husband, children and friends gives her strength and she continues to enjoy life and brings encouragement to others. She notes that her husband, Ken, is still the “wind beneath her wings!”

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