Caryl Hansen

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Caryl (Harms) Hansen

1929 - 2013


If there are sports and a Fenton's ice cream parlor in the hereafter, then Caryl Hansen is surely in heaven. The SF Bay Area native, who died September 19, started her ice cream adventure when she was five years old, proudly ordering a Fenton's Black and Tan Sundae. Sports came a bit later, and while football was her favorite, ultimately she never met a sport she didn't like.


First and foremost an ardent Oakland Raider fan from their beginnings in 1960, she also kept up with the Oakland A's from the time they came to that city in 1968. She enjoyed college sports as well, especially football and both men's and women's basketball, though she followed every sport in which her alma mater, Stanford University, had a team.


Many of her friends remember Caryl as a delicious singer/musician. At Stanford's Roth House, Caryl played the ukulele and sang, accompanied by her life-long friend and college roommate, Ruby Bernstein; she regularly organized Roth House's entry in the annual "Stanford Spring Sing." Each fall she celebrated at Rossmoor's Big Game Party, where she led the group in Fight Songs from throughout the nation's campuses. She had a memory for song lyrics!


Born in Berkeley, California, Caryl Harms spent much of her childhood in Southern California. Her parents divorced when she was quite young, and she and her mother shared lean times during the Depression, living in boarding houses, sometimes with just one room between them. Her mother remarried when Caryl was in her teens, and the family lived in the San Francisco Bay Area. Here, Caryl graduated from Piedmont High School (1947) and Stanford University (AB Journalism, 1951), where she was staff editor of the Stanford Daily.


As the Korean War commenced, after graduation she joined the US Marine Corps Reserves. During her three-year tour of duty, Captain Harms served as Assistant Public Information Officer at Quantico, Virginia. Highlights she liked to recall included marching in President Eisenhower's inaugural parade in 1953 and in the Armed Forces Day Parade down New York City's Fifth Avenue in 1954; also, participating in a Rose Garden ceremony that was followed by a tour of the White House led personally by Bess Truman.


Her civilian career began as Managing Editor of Oakland-based weekly newspaper, The Piedmonter (1954-62), before moving into public relations as Educational Assistant at the Oakland Public Library for two years. This set the stage for her long career in public relations.


In the mid-1960s she worked as Press Director for the United Way (San Francisco). This was followed by a long and appreciated career with Children's Home Society of California (CHS), based in their Oakland office, where she made many long-lasting friendships, and was affectionately known by her staff as She Who Must Be Obeyed. She joined CHS in 1967 and retired in 1999, serving in several key management positions, among them Special Assistant to the President and Director of Development. She oversaw the numerous auxiliaries statewide, and was instrumental in creating many of the CHS written materials and award-winning film products. Her daughters remember being tickled by her regular two-minute appearances on KTVU's "Dialing for Dollars" on behalf of CHS in the '70s.


Like her mother, Caryl was a talented writer. She published several young-adult novels and short-story collections, including novels {2LT}bold>Gold on Her Shoulder, based on her experiences in the Marines, and The Prettiest Politician, from her volunteer work with the GOP. Also, Your Choice: A Young Woman's Guide to Making Decisions About Unmarried Pregnancy, an important non-fiction book based on options recommended by Children's Home Society.


As a freelance writer, she was Contributing Editor for HOME magazine (1979-81),Editor of Glass Art Society Journal (1989-91), wrote articles on a wide range of topics for major magazines and newspapers, as well as brochures, in-house magazines, audio-visual scripts, press releases, and fund development materials. She received several awards for her work on Annual Reports from the National ARC Competition for Annual Reports, as well as an Astrid Award; and a Mercury Award for a birth parent brochure.


Over the years, she maintained affiliations in organizations whose activities she loved, including the Christian Science church; Friends of the Oakland Public Library; the California Crafts Museum in San Francisco, which she helped found; Glass Art Society; and California Writers Club (Jack London Award Winner, 1991).


Caryl is pre-deceased by second husband Robert F. Hansen (2008); she is survived by sister Laurie DeFrance; brother Robert Harms; daughters (from her first marriage) Jennifer Hall and Rebecca Hazleton; Robert's son and daughter, Christopher Hansen and Laurel Hansen; grandson James Humphrey; as well as many cherished cousins, nieces, and nephews. The family requests that contributions in her honor be sent to Children's Home Society of California, 1300 West 4th St, Los Angeles CA 90017; Tenth Church of Christ, Scientist, 1880 Mountain Blvd, Oakland CA 94611; or Maine Coon Adoptions, 2527 Carmel Street, Oakland CA 94602.


Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Oct. 13, 2013
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