James Herman Hanson
A lifetime of care for others ended June 30, 2014, with the death of James Herman Hanson, 83, of Des Moines. Jim died at Taylor House Hospice, surrounded by people who love him.
James Herman Hanson was born July 18, 1930, on a farm near Scranton, Iowa, the only child of Theodore Wilhelm and Frances Irene (Rose) Hanson. As the hearing child of deaf parents, Jim was, from an early age, the key facilitator of his parents' communication with the hearing world.
Jim grew up in Callender, Iowa, graduating from Callender High School in 1947. Through the efforts of his pastor, the Rev. Erling Fretheim, he attended Lutheran Bible Institute in Minneapolis, and then transferred to Augsburg College for two years.
In June 1951, Jim entered the U.S. Army, and was stationed as a corporal in Tokyo, where he served in the honor guard of General Matthew Ridgway and later General Mark Clark for 18 months. His primary duty was that of a driver for the staff of two commanding generals of the Korean War.
After his discharge from the Army in the summer of 1953, Jim returned as an orderly at Lutheran Hospital in Fort Dodge, Iowa. That fall, he enrolled in Drake University, obtaining his bachelor's degree in 1955. He then enrolled in the master's degree program in social work at the University of Iowa, graduating in 1957.
In February 1956 in Iowa City, Jim reconnected, by chance, with a former Lutheran Hospital co-worker named Phyllis Berge, of Bode, Iowa. They were married on August 4, 1956, in Des Moines.
After Jim's graduation from the University of Iowa, the couple moved to Waverly, Iowa, where Jim became director of social services at the Lutheran Children's Home, now known as the Bremwood Residential Treatment Center. All three of the Hanson children were born in Waverly.
The Hanson family moved to Des Moines in May 1964. Jim worked for two years at the Des Moines Child Guidance Center, then moved to the position of supervisor of services to the deaf and hard of hearing in the state of Iowa's Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.
Jim founded Iowa's chapter of Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, and was the chapter's first president. He was the first registered interpreter in the state of Iowa. He was a nationally known speaker and writer on the topic of deaf culture, and an advocate for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Upon his 1993 retirement, Jim and Phyllis - who was retired as a reading specialist from the Des Moines Public Schools - were active volunteers at Iowa Lutheran Hospital, at St. John's Lutheran Church and at the shelter for the homeless.
Surviving Jim are his wife of nearly 58 years, Phyllis Hanson, of Des Moines; his daughter Lyn Jerde and her husband Jay, of Madison, Wisconsin; his son Daniel Hanson and his wife Lynn of Cambridge, Ontario, Canada; his son Dr. Matthew Hanson and his wife Dianne of Wyckoff, New Jersey; his grandchildren, Timothy Gerard, Kathryn Rose and Christopher James Hanson, of Wyckoff, New Jersey; his step-granddaughters, Lesleigh, Jaclyn and Jennifer Rusnak of Canada; numerous cousins; two nephews; five nieces; four grandnieces, seven grandnephews and one great-grandnephew; his sister-in-law Phelva Smith and her husband James of Oak Lawn, Illinois; and his sister-in-law, Anna Berge of Aurelia, Iowa.
He was preceded in death by his father, Theodore Hanson, in 1962; his mother, Frances Hanson, in 1978; his father-in-law, Ernest Berge, in 1980; his mother-in-law, Laura Berge, in 1986; a special aunt, Hilma Smith, in 2007; a special cousin, Kenneth Hansen, in 1968; his brother-in-law, Richard Berge, in 2006; and his nephew, Eric Berge, in 2013.
A Celebration of the Life of Jim Hanson will be held on July 19, 2014, at St. John's Lutheran Church in Des Moines, Iowa, at 11:00 in the morning. Please feel free to visit the family at the church before the Celebration, after 9:30 in the morning.
The family suggests memorial contributions be made to St. John's Lutheran Church Foundation in Des Moines or Taylor House Hospice in Des Moines.
Many thanks to all of those who helped Jim on his final journey.
Hamilton’s Funeral Home
605 Lyon Street Des Moines, IA 50309
Published in Des Moines Register on July 2, 2014