Albert Bernard “Barney” Hanson, 95, a life-long resident of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, passed away Oct. 1, 2021, at Stoney Point Meadows.
Barney was born on February 25, 1926, in Cedar Rapids to Herbert Eugene and Mary Elizabeth Fitzgerald. He was the eighth of 10 children and spent most of his life on the northwest side of town. As a youngster his father paid him 25 cents for every rat he could catch in the basement. This interest in “working and earning” carried on throughout Barney’s life. As a sixth grader he threaded pipes at Russo Plumbing for 50 cents a week and made deliveries for Belknap and Gatto grocery stores.
As a member of the “Greatest Generation,” Barney left Roosevelt High School before graduating and, with the help of his mother’s signature, enlisted in the United States Navy. He proudly served as a machinist’s mate aboard the USS Mississippi from June of 1944 until the conclusion of World War II. Barney saw action in most major battles including Leyte Gulf (where the ship took a near-fatal blow from a kamikaze attack at its waterline) as well as during the amphibious assault on Okinawa, the final, fatal blow to Japanese hopes in the Pacific. He was aboard the Mississippi in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945, when the Peace Treaty between the Allies and Japan was signed.
After his discharge Barney came home and earned a GED then utilized the GI Bill to attend Business College for six months. After Business College, Barney went to work with the National Literary Association selling magazines. Among the notables he sold magazines to were: Johnny Lujack of Notre Dame and Chicago Bear fame along with the wife of baseball Hall of Famer Ted Williams in Boston. Mrs. Williams wrote a $42 check for magazines that Ted later stopped payment on. Barney became a Yankee fan shortly thereafter. In 1949 Barney attended the Jack Rossiter Baseball School in Cocoa, Florida. Of the 187 players who attended the school, 26 earned professional baseball contracts including Barney who signed with the Odessa Oilers in Texas. Barney went to spring training with the Oilers and spent the better part of a season with the club before being traded to Del Rio.
In 1950 Barney returned to Cedar Rapids and began a 15-year career playing fast pitch softball that culminated in his induction to the Cedar Rapids Softball Hall of Fame in 1988. He pitched for several Major Open teams including the Post Office, Wilson & Co, Whitey’s Auto Sales, Danceland and Fleck’s Falstaff. Barney helped pitch Whitey’s to the state title in 1953 as well as Fleck’s in 1961. In 1954 he earned the Cedar Rapids Softball Association’s Most Valuable Player Award.
Barney was an avid collector of anything he could make a buck on. In the 1960s and 70s he collected guns, coins and antiques and was a regular “Gun Show” exhibitor at Hawkeye Downs. In later life Barney was a favorite customer of Goodwill Industries. For several years he focused on buying baseball gloves and donating them to the Marshalltown Little League and various baseball organizations in the Dominican. Barney also never met a clock he didn’t like. His house was filled with time pieces of all kinds but one of Barney’s greatest joys was giving things away. His charitable nature was thought to be a great show of kindness but, upon further review, the giving mainly opened up the space necessary for him to collect more stuff.
Barney worked for Friedl Construction as a painter and wallpaper hanger and, for over 30 years, was in charge of maintenance at the Higley and Granby Buildings in downtown Cedar Rapids. Upon retirement in 1991, he became interested in golf. Barney enjoyed playing regularly with a solid group of friends and was also the curator of the Golden Hawk Golf Tournament which he ran annually from 1982-2006.
After selling concessions at Iowa football games in the early 1940s, Barney remained an avid Hawkeye fan the rest of his life. Whether it was emphasizing the need to “throw the bomb” or getting more 3-pointers in the air, he always had helpful suggestions for Hawkeye players and coaches. During a 20-year run of attending Hawkeye football games in person, Barney was able to witness Hayden Fry’s transformation of a formerly dormant program into a consistent winner.
On November 19, 1955, Barney married Patricia Steggall at St. Patrick’s Church. They had five children and were seldom apart during their 61 years together. Pat and Barney frequently hosted gatherings for their children and friends. They were very willing to open their home and Barney normally had more fun than anyone. Following Pat’s death in January of 2017, Barney remained in the family home on First Avenue until a house fire displaced him in March of 2021. Anyone who knew Barney would recognize his propensity to laugh. He always enjoyed hearing a good story and loved telling one even more. A gag of any kind – even if he was the target – would surely draw a laugh. Like most people who grew up in the 1930s and 40s he enjoyed playing cards, bowling and nearly anything he could bet a dollar on including football and basketball games.
Barney is survived by his son Steve (Diane Clement) of Marshalltown; and daughters, Amy (Greg) Stewart of Fairfax, Jane (Brian) Lasko of Lakeville, Minn., Ann (Bob) Sheetz of Oxford, Ind., and Beth (Steve) Melchior of Cedar Rapids. Additionally Barney has 12 grandchildren and five great grandchildren. It was common for Barney to regail his grandchildren with tales from his 95 years of life, including but not limited to: his holes in one, his unassisted triple play, the bellows, the monkey kids, the window peeker, his Stradivarius, Cedar Rapids cockroaches and missing anchor tails.
The family would like to thank the staff and residents at Stoney Point Meadows for the care and warmth they provided for the past six months. A celebration of life is being planned for a later date.
Following his final round of golf on September 22, Barney said, “I don’t know if I’m going to heaven or hell – but I have friends in both places!” Fly low dad and remember to tape your ankles.
In lieu of flowers a memorial fund in Barney’s name will be established with the Cedar Rapids Softball Hall of Fame. Contributions can be sent to: Amy Stewart - 117 Ridge Drive - Fairfax, IA 52228