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Patriotic music brings out the best at 100th birthday

Memories flow of the day Charleen Hanan marched with Sousa


by: SUBMITTED - John Hanan II took after his mother, Charleen, by becoming a trumpet player. She once played in a band led by the great John Philip Sousa.Turning 100 years is an accomplishment that deserves a marching band as tribute.

That didn’t happen at Charleen Hanan’s 100th birthday party on June 29 at Hope Community Church in Lake Oswego, although 130 friends and family members flocked there to pay her a special tribute.

“For my mom to turn 100 is totally amazing,” said John Hanan II, her son. “Her mom only lived to be 54 and her dad was 62. She got colon cancer when she was 88, but she had us hold her 90th birthday party in case she didn’t live to be that old.”

Still, there was music at the birthday bash — a booming recorded rendition of “Stars and Stripes Forever” by John Philip Sousa, America’s March King. It was extremely appropriate because Charleen Hanan just might be the only living person who played under the great master.

This totally mammoth event happened on May 25, 1930. The greatest massed band in U.S. history gathered on Atwood Field in Flint, Mich. — 3,500 of the finest high school musicians in the country playing in 42 bands before an ecstatic crowd of 25,000 people. It was like a scene out of “The Music Man,” only much bigger, and it was led by the old maestro himself. Hanan, then a 16-year-old trumpet player from Portland, was dazzled.

“She was shocked when she saw how fragile Mr. Sousa was,” said John. “When the band started playing ‘Stars and Stripes Forever,’ tears started streaming down her cheeks.”

Fragile is right as Sousa died about two years later.

Hanan kept right on marching to a long career as a music teacher. She got her music degree at the University of Oregon and went on to teach music to a couple of generations of students.

She also raised a musician at home. One day 6-year-old John happened to find his mother’s old trumpet lying in a closet. The DNA instantly kicked in, and John went on to become a trumpet player. He still plays today with a musical quintet known (affectionately) as the Low Lifes.

John Hanan and the other Low Lifes were on hand at his mother’s birthday party. Like anybody with a pulse, his heart swelled when “Stars and Stripes Forever” was played. It hearkened back to that concert 83 years ago.

He said, “Mom gets goosebumps when she thinks about it to this day.”



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