In Loving Memory of Douglas Keith Hansen

Written by Lydia Benedict.

In Loving Memory
Douglas Keith Hansen

December 7, 1967 - November 21, 2023



The year was 1967 and the Vietnam War was still raging. The world’s first ATM was put into use in the United Kingdom and The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. On December 7th Douglas Keith Hansen was born in Seattle, the first of Dwight and Shirley Hansen’s nine children. After several moves, including a short stint in New Mexico, Dwight and Shirley bought a house in Lake Stevens, Washington—Doug’s childhood home.

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Lake Stevens, Washington

When I joined the family almost two years after Douglas, he seemed to innately understand his role as older brother. At first, Lydia was a difficult name for him to pronounce, so he called me La-La. I always liked it when he called me that. Even as an adult, I signed my letters, notes and even text messages to Doug as La-La.

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Douglas and Lydia

By his teenage years, Doug’s adventurous spirit was evident, and he had the injuries to prove it. I was there when he broke his arm trying to do a stunt at Andrea Parker’s home, and when he injured his hand in the recoil starter of the lawnmower. After breaking his ankle one summer, he didn’t let the cast on his leg stop him from going tubing down a river with my friends and me. He wrapped his leg in a large plastic garbage bag. But water got in and he ended up in the hospital with gangrene.

Despite his misadventures, Doug looked out for his siblings. Once he had his driver’s license, Doug drove us to early morning seminary classes. One morning, our Fiat ran out of gas. Doug and I pushed the car the remaining distance to the mini mart in downtown Lake Stevens for fuel. Another day, Doug and I drove home from high school in the snow. As we neared a busy highway intersection, I gripped the side door in fear as our Ford station wagon just kept sliding. Doug, however, remained calm and got the vehicle under control. Another time, my sister Kimber and I took a road trip with Doug to Oregon—just the three of us. To this day I don’t know why Mom and Dad let us go, but it was an experience of a lifetime. The three of us sang songs all the way home to stay alert as Doug drove through dangerously dense fog on steep mountain roads.

After returning from his church mission that took him to New Mexico, Douglas married Patricia Francisco on January 1, 1990. It wasn’t long before Doug and Patricia started their family in New Mexico. Doug began building their house while the family lived on the property in a building no larger than 200 square feet. Their outdoor shower was camp style, with a pallet below and gravity-fed water above. One winter, Mom and Dad visited New Mexico to help Doug’s family with the home construction; Mom recalls how bitterly cold it was especially visiting the outhouse at night. Before the family could move into the unfinished main house, their makeshift home housed Doug, Patricia and their first three children: Colin, Taria, and Uhriath.

But Doug didn’t let cold weather and harsh conditions stop him. His love for camping and the great outdoors was part of him. Growing up, Kimber always wanted to go camping with Douglas and the Boy Scouts. So as adults, the two of them went camping, setting up alongside a trail in the woods with a tarp instead of a tent because Kimber had wished to camp the way she imagined the scouts had done it. Besides, sleeping under only a tarp enabled her to “see the bears coming.” After cooking over an open fire, they put their leftover food in Gatorade bottles strung with rope over high tree branches. No bears frequented their camp.

Doug’s love for nature was evident to most who knew him. Ethan enjoyed pitching a tent with him and clearing a woodland area near a damn Doug had built for his Eagle Scout Project. Douglas was a boy scout for life, always offering a guiding hand. He often set up his hammock at the edge of camp to keep an eye on the younger scouts and foraged for huckleberries in the morning for his pancakes. One time, Paul joined Dad, Douglas and the scouts on a camping trip to Potholes Reservoir in eastern Washington where they canoed to and camped on their own private island. Always a teacher, Doug taught Paul to make a lean-to shelter out of tarp, properly sharpen a knife, and win at Capture-the-Flag, one of Doug’s favorite games. My brother, Travis also loved playing that game with Doug and our entire family, running through the dark tunnels of the old army fort at Fort Casey on Whidbey Island.

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Nine Hansen children at Fort Casey
Left to right, bottom row: Travis, Ethan, Paul, KC
Middle row: Doug, Kimber, Callie
Top row: Robin & Lydia

Douglas wasn’t just a teacher: he was a doer. Paul points out that while he would still be considering the best way to do a job, Doug just did it. Need a chicken coop built? Call Doug. Need chickens butchered? Call Doug. Want to know what comes first, the chicken or the egg? Okay…maybe don’t call Doug for this.

Also, Doug loved just about anything with wheels and an engine, such as his green Ford Econoline van that looked like the one from the cartoon Scooby Doo. On the day Paul got his driver’s license, Doug let him drive the van, known in Hansen folklore as “The Green Machine.” It was a thrill especially because Paul had to drive it up a steep hill in reverse because the van was low on fuel. Another time, Paul drove the Fiat, Doug riding shotgun, heading into the hills for a scouting trip all while cooking their tin-foil dinners between the dual overhead cams of the engine.

Even as a kid, Doug drove a go-cart down our dead-end street like he was practicing for the Indy 500, going full speed while seamlessly turning into our driveway. I aspired to drive as cool as Doug, attempting the same stunt—not so seamlessly. His daredevil driving style never left him. Even after cancer treatment had deteriorated his health significantly, Doug could still be found whipping around his property on a go-cart, a cloud of dust flying out behind him. Doug also loved a good 4-wheel drive vehicle. One time, he and my brother KC went off-roading on the rugged terrain around Doug’s home. They underestimated the wind that day but were quickly reminded of it when a “bathroom break” off a nearby cliff literally backfired in their faces.

Doug on his go-cart

But perhaps Doug’s favorite thing to drive was his tractor. When Colin was little, he stood behind his dad on the tractor, watching him make motocross tracks, riding the tracks on his dirt bike afterward—a tradition continued later by Uhriath. Doug and his tractor reached legendary status when he picked up his youngest daughter, Chelsey, from high school on it one day. When not playing with these toys, Doug worked on them—enjoying the process of taking an engine apart and rebuilding it.

Doug on his tractor with grandson, Havoc

Engines and wheels were not his only source of enjoyment. One New Year’s Eve before he had cancer, Doug led 6-year-old Ionna to the middle of the church gymnasium floor for a daddy-daughter dance. They started swinging and Doug picked Ionna up under her arms, swung her to right side of his body, to the left, and then between his legs. Finally, he swung her high into the air and in some magical way guided her through a flip, Ionna landing on her dad’s shoulders. She trusted that her dad would never let her fall.

Besides music and dancing, Doug enjoyed playing in the mud. When we were children, he and I found nice smooth rocks, coated them in the never-ending supply of Washington-state mud, and placed them neatly on the metal steps on the back of our tricycle. We then pedaled furiously up and down our driveway, pretending to be “The Popsicle Man” who occasionally came down our street, whimsical tunes calling all children like the Pied-Piper. But adulthood did not stop Doug from playing in the mud, something Chelsey loved doing with her dad, their shoes getting stuck in the thick clay.

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Doug enjoyed approaching life like a kid. He sometimes awakened his oldest daughter, Taria, early in the morning to see if she wanted to get breakfast. At Denny’s, the only place serving breakfast at 5 a.m. in their little town, they ordered cheesecake and hot cocoa. It was always dessert first. Doug liked to say, “If I die, at least I had my dessert.” Afterward, father and daughter snuck back into the house before the rest of the family had awakened and pretended to be sleeping. Doug’s sense of humor never left him. Even during his cancer treatment, he joked with the nurses at Huntsman Cancer Institute that his son needed a girlfriend, encouraging Uhriath to introduce himself to the nurses.

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Nine Hansen children in 2021

But it wasn’t all fun and games. Doug seemed to thrive on hard work. His daughter Madison loved weekends when the entire family worked in the dirt and grass alongside Doug in his landscaping business. Afterward, they would stop at Allsups gas station for burritos or chimichangas and have a picnic on the grass. Colin spent many hours talking with his dad, driving thousands of miles, week after week, to service Doug’s landscaping clients. Sometimes Colin even brought a book along and read aloud to his dad.

Always resourceful, Doug was a fixer upper. After visiting Doug in Utah during his cancer treatment, Robin had left behind some old sandals intending to throw them away. Doug surprised her by hand-sewing the leather straps back together, and then driving the 2,000 miles to Virginia with his family to hand deliver the sandals.

Despite running his own business, Doug was always quick to lend a helping-hand—even if it meant putting his own busy schedule on hold. When Doug stopped to help a couple stranded on the highway, the woman cried tears of gratitude: Doug was the answer to her prayers. Roles reversed with Doug’s cancer, and family, friends, and healthcare workers stepped up to help. It reminds me of the classic film It’s a Wonderful Life. Jimmy Stewart plays George Bailey who is beaten down by life—not recognizing how many lives he had touched. The story ends with friends, family, and coworkers pouring into his house to rescue George Bailey as he always had them. Doug felt a similar outpouring of love while dealing with cancer, saying, “I’m thankful for good people.”

Despite Doug’s poor health, the needs of his family often came before his own. This past summer when Taria, her husband Josh and their children paid a visit home, Doug put the needs of his grandchildren first, whether they were blood relations or not. When Josh’s daughter, Lily, developed a fever, Doug retrieved her from a friend’s house, brought her home, and made her a hydrating drink. Taria and Josh arrived home later to find Lily walking around a pool Doug had filled with water, explaining, “She was feeling a little overheated, so we’re trying to cool off.” He enjoyed helping his grandchildren read or feed the animals, much as he had his own children. Doug also taught his kids how to deal with life’s adversities, including school bullies. Madison gained confidence to deal with her bullies when Doug encouraged her to be as kind as possible, but if it was necessary to hit—then hit hard.

9Left to right: Chelsey, Ionna, Douglas, Patricia, Madison, Uhriath, Taria, and Colin

The weakest time in Doug’s life was undoubtedly 2012 during his leukemia treatment. Particularly excruciating was the process of bone marrow transplant. His bone marrow type was very rare, but my youngest sister Callie—a type-1 diabetic—was a perfect match. She spent two months in Utah with Doug, preparing for the transplant, her own daughter staying with grandparents. Brother and sister took long walks and had lunch together as Doug tried to regain strength before the transplant. He even insisted on climbing the three flights of hospital stairs, instead of taking the elevator. Only one weekend during that time did Callie return home to Idaho. She recalls Doug’s fear that Callie wouldn’t return for the transplant and his subsequent joy when she did.

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Douglas and Callie

Douglas ended up getting about eleven more years of life. Only this October did he learn that his swollen tongue was again cancer. Weighing his diminishing options, he drove from New Mexico to Washington to visit friends and family. He texted me from the road on October 29th. He had stopped at a friend’s family farm and “took over the project of building a chicken house and stock room shed.” I should have been shocked, but I wasn’t. Doug would have gotten off his deathbed to help someone in need.

Douglas passed away less than month later at Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City. He had been recovering from surgery and looking forward to Thanksgiving with his family when he began hemorrhaging.

However, Doug was never one for self-pity—something Patricia, his wife of almost 34 years, knew intimately. Instead, Patricia observed his intense love for others and the way he focused on them instead of himself. She also learned patience: Doug loved to talk and typically didn’t stop until he’d made his desired point. But mostly Patricia loved Doug’s goofy nature. Their favorite 80’s song was by Cheap Trick and they made funny faces at one another while singing along to the lyrics.

I want you to want me
I need you to need me
I’d love you to love me
I’m begging you to beg me….
I’ll shine up my old brown shoes
I’ll put on a brand new shirt
I’ll get home from work early
If you say that you love me.