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Frances Hanna

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Frances Desire Hanna 1908 ~ 2010 Resident of Kensington MY JOURNEY The Early Years I entered our world as Frances Desire Ramsay, January 19, 1908 in Davenport, Iowa. My father was an ordained Unitarian Church Minister and my mother died only two years after I was born. My father re-married and he and his new wife fell in love with Southern California. My stepmother, my father, my older brother and I then relocated to Pasadena. My father entered the University of Southern California Medical School. After graduating, he continued his studies and became a well respected and prominent pediatrician. I attended the local schools. After graduation from high school I explored my many interests. I attended Pasadena Junior College, the Pasadena Playhouse, and the Huntington Memorial Hospital School of Nursing concurrently. After obtaining my Registered Nurse certification from Huntington, I took some special training at Hollywood Children's Hospital and, while there, I became engaged to a young intern. The Depression Years In 1929 the young intern (now doctor) and I were married and moved to Berkeley, California where Dr. Clarence Ballard Hills established his medical practice. My husband was on the staff at Alta Bates Community Hospital and later served as its president. During the 1930's we established our family. We had two daughters - Sally Louise in 1930 and Jean Mary in 1932. Both of our daughters were delivered at our beloved Alta Bates Community Hospital. This decade in my life found me balancing my time and my interests. The demands of creating a well managed and satisfying home life and my burgeoning interest in volunteering to further a sense of community at Alta Bates found the perfect balance when I pursued a professional dancing career. Two of my interests came together during the first fund raiser for the hospital. A party was held at the Claremont Hotel in the mid-1930's as a joint effort of the medical staff, their wives, and hospital personnel. The proceeds from this fund raiser provided the seed money to establish a much needed staff hall. Peggy Bates (the daughter of Alta Bates, the founder of the hospital) and I arranged the program and we participated in the dance portion along with dancers from the dance studio in San Francisco with which I was connected. Viola! A marriage between my love for volunteerism and my love for dancing! The World War II Years World War II changed our lives and our complacent way of living. My doctor husband joined the Navy. I "hung up" my dancing shoes and donned my Red Cross nurse's cap. I was employed by the Red Cross and, as a Registered Nurse, I taught day and night courses to train nurses aides -- the courageous women who filled in for many of the registered nurses who were deployed to war zones throughout the world. Our classes were conducted at Alta Bates Hospital and our program was recognized for having the best training course in the country. Because of the shortage of registered nurses during the war years, I also worked as a registered nurse at Alta Bates. I served as an admitting nurse, a night supervisor, and other positions which included the Acting Director of Nurses. During these years, as a volunteer, I participated in the establishment of the hospital's first coffee shop. All my skills were called upon -- from selecting linoleum for the floors to carpentry work which included knocking out and adding partitions. The Post World War II Years The war was finally over and so was my marriage to Dr. Hills. I continued my employment with Alta Bates but, needing a change, I accepted the position of Industrial Nurse at Cutter Laboratories. In 1947, I met and married my wonderful husband of 40 years, Warren Leonard Hanna. I brought two daughters to this union and Warren brought his one daughter who was in the same grade at school and was the same age as my younger daughter. During our blended marriage Warren Hanna became a leading figure in California Workers Compensation Law. His law firm grew from a partnership of two attorneys in 1947 to over one hundred attorneys before the 1980's were reached. Once again, I found myself in a position of balancing many activities. My husband had invested in a printing and stationery retail store. The store management was in decline and I found myself directing and managing the operation for three years. This activity had to be balanced with my role as a mother of three girls and my role as a partner in my marriage. Because of the Korean conflict a shortage of Registered Nurses developed. My loyalty to the Red Cross called me back -- this time as a volunteer. The Nurses Aide program was reactivated and I taught classes to train the needed Nurses Aides at the Veterans Hospital in Oakland. I also taught Home Nursing in Berkeley and I worked on Nurse Recruitment and Disaster Nursing programs. In 1955, the Alta Bates Volunteer Association was established. I was asked to return to Alta Bates to evaluate and advise regarding this newly created Association. I stayed to train volunteers and reorganize the In Service Program for Senior Volunteers. I was then asked to evaluate the Junior Volunteer Program and, once again, I found myself staying to train the volunteers and reorganize the program. The Juniors lacked supervision. I agreed to direct this program for a limited time. My tenure as Director of the Junior Volunteer Program stretched from "a limited time" to three long years. I had to choose between my marriage and my volunteer activities. For example, dinners at 8:00pm put unreasonable demands on my family and me. Reluctantly, I resigned from my position directing the In Service Program for Junior Volunteers. In 1958, during the period I was the In-Service Chairman at Alta Bates, the hospital experienced its first strike by housekeeping, laundry, and dietary employees, as well as the nurses' aides. The strike lasted three weeks and, without the volunteers, would not have been able to provide the required services for the hospital's patients. My vehicle, a well known Pink Thunderbird, became a target for striking protestors. My husband escorted me to and from the hospital during the three week strike. The hospital prevailed in the strike and I still wear with pride and humility the beautiful gold watch given to me by the Board of Trustees with their appreciation. The More Tranquil Years At last! There was time for me to get back to my dancing. I danced with several local groups and I have derived great pleasure from being the Creative Director for my own La Desiree Danse Ensemble. During these years I enjoyed participating in my three major interests -- dancing, nursing, and volunteering. My involvement as a volunteer at Alta Bates permitted me to bring my medical knowledge into the hospital related volunteer positions I undertook and I was also able to bring my love for dancing into the Alta Bates related fund raising activities. Following are some of the activities with which I was involved: 1960: I chaired the Red and White Ball, a fund raising gala. 1961: I served as the Vice President of the Alta Bates Volunteer Association. 1962 and 1963: I served as the President of the Alta Bates Volunteer Association. After my term as President of the Alta Bates Volunteer Association expired, I continued to volunteer my services for committees and special functions and then, in 1978 and 1979, I served as the President of the Alta Bates Foundation Associates. I am honored to be the first president of both the Alta Bates Foundation Associates and the president of the Alta Bates Volunteer Association. In 1981, my husband and I made a gift of our Berkeley Hills Convalescent Hospital on Ashby Avenue to the Alta Bates Corporation. This property with an appraised valuation of $500,000 has a special utility and value to Alta Bates, and it is one that the latter had been desirous of acquiring. During these years my husband and I traveled and explored the four corners of our world. We even walked the Great Wall of China! We visited each continent at least two times. We both felt extremely fortunate that we could visit the new and old worlds before these worlds merged into one through globalization. The Recent Years I seem to be always doing more than one thing at a time. This means being in touch with my three daughters, Sally, Marilyn, and Jeannie, my five grandchildren and my very special GREATS and two GREAT GREATS!! I have active memberships in a variety of organizations including the Seniorsize Aerobics classes in Albany, The Pasadena Playhouse, the Opera League, Alta Bates organizations and the East Bay Fan Club. I am involved with the Hillside Club, the Arlington Women's Club, and three book clubs. I also volunteer once a week for the Alta Bates Show Case, a thrift store in Oakland. My love affair with the performing arts is as strong as ever -- both as a spectator and as a performer. I enjoy ballet and theatre events including the San Francisco Ballet, the Smuin Ballet in San Francisco and various theatre groups including the Berkeley Repertory Theatre and the Aurora Theatre in Berkeley. I also attend productions presented by the Playhouse West and the Lamplighters in Walnut Creek. I have written and presented vignettes at my Unitarian Universalist Church in Kensington. I have included two of these sketches in My Journal. I also performed the role of Lucinda Matlock in a Spoon River adaptation which was presented at my Church to critical acclaim. This was an extremely rewarding experience. I am blessed to have many very dear friends who entertain me for events and dinners and I reciprocate. I have an active social life. My spiritual journey began in Davenport, Iowa where my father was the local Unitarian Minister. After traveling down many roads and byways I found my home, once again, in a Unitarian Church a mere two blocks from my home in Kensington. My philosophy has evolved over the years. I try to live my philosophy every day -- Keep Busy Stay Physically Active Think Happy As she has requested, no services will be held.
Published in Contra Costa Times on Apr. 7, 2010
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