Everyone loved and appreciated kind and giving man
When Robert Hanson entered a room, he brought joy and laughter, inspiring and warming the hearts of everyone he came into contact with.
So when Robert joined the King City Music Club a couple of years ago, his wonderful voice enhanced the chorus, and he performed solos in his own unique way during the monthly open mic sessions for the enjoyment of all.
Sadly, Robert's voice was suddenly stilled when he died of an apparent heart attack July 28, but he will live on in the memories of his family and fellow music club members.
A week after learning of his death, chorus members took a few minutes out of their rehearsal to reflect on the many qualities that made Robert so beloved.
Shirley Frank, who lives in the King City Condos where Robert lived, said, "He was funny - he had a great sense of humor. And he was almost childlike.
"When bark mulch was delivered for the condos, Robert wheel-barreled it to whoever wanted it all summer. He decided it would be his mission, and he dumped mulch on everybody's property."
Lynn Turner added, "I didn't know him long, but he made me happy when he sang. He made everybody feel good."
Muriel Dresser, who is president of the music club, said, "He made everybody feel good when he walked into a room - sunshine followed him. During open mic, he would dance with all the ladies.
"I called him every week to remind him of the music club meetings, and he always ended the conversation with, 'I love you.' He was so passionate about music - he almost drifted into his own zone."
Tom Rust said, "One of the things I remember about him was that anytime there was a handicapped person around or someone who needed help, he was right there.
"And it was hard for him to blend in with the chorus - almost every time he sang, it was a solo. We kept saying, 'You must blend.'"
Sharon Baker recalled that when a chorus member with cerebral palsy or a similar disease got up to sing and was having difficulty, Robert went up and sang with her so no one noticed her disability.
Dennis Pollman said, "One thing that amazed me was that his conversations could be off the scale - he was so intelligent."
The group stopped talking to listen to a recording of Robert singing "High Hopes," and chorus director Jo Ann Brinkman said, "He embellished every melody to make it his own."
They all laughed recalling that when everyone in the chorus was supposed to dress in black and white for a performance, Robert would never comply. "He wore what he wanted," Frank said.
Don Bellairs said, "He always sang 'Fly Me to the Moon' and 'Bye, Bye, Blackbird,' and he loved Christmas songs and singing 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town.'"
Patricia Day said, "I noticed him last year when I came for the Monthly Musicals - he kept winning the drawings, and I thought, 'What a fun guy.' He was the same every time. I just admired him so much and his love of life. You just laughed with him."
Dresser added, "We all loved, loved, loved him."
Beyond Robert's love of music, his other interests included riding his bike and playing crochet, and he had his own mallet.
Although people in King City only knew Robert for the past few years, he had a huge family who will miss him as well.
Robert was born Jan. 21, 1947, in Minneapolis, according to his sister Alice Alt.
When he was 3, their dad was transferred to Indianapolis, where they grew up. Robert graduated from Purdue University in 1969 with a degree in civil engineering and got a job with the Indiana State Highway Department.
A few years later, when Robert was in his mid-20s, he was nearly killed in an auto-train accident.
"He waited a long time to get his first car after college," Alice said. "He and his roommate were driving up a hill with an unmarked, rarely used railroad crossing at the top, and a new billboard blocked the view of the tracks. A train hit them, and the car went spinning. Bob was unconscious for a week, and his roommate died 12 hours later.
"Bob's brain was severely bruised from the spinning of the car, and when he woke up, he couldn't remember the previous three years. The nerves in his brain had to make new connections. For a while, he couldn't remember anything, and he used to put Post-It notes around to remember things."
Robert could no longer do his job, so he went back to Purdue to become a civil engineering technician. When he visited his sister in Washington, he fell in love with the Pacific Northwest.
"In the early '80s, he got a job with the Oregon State Highway Department and got to travel around the state," Alice said. "He found the condo in King City six years ago and said, 'I'm not moving back. This is my home.'
"Our mom wanted him to move back, but he stayed. She passed away last October at almost 98, and the last time I saw Bob was at her memorial service. She set aside money in her savings account to pay for travel and hotel rooms for all the family members to come, including her great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. We were all there for a weekend and took group photos - I know she would have been thrilled."
Alice and her husband Jim had been planning a trip to the Northwest for almost a year to visit her sister in Washington and Robert in King City, which was their first trip to the West Coast.
"Now our trip to Portland is different than we planned," she said, talking from her cell phone on the road while Jim did the driving. "Instead of a family reunion, we will have a memorial service. We are taking the same route that Bob took on his first trip to Oregon."
Alice knows that Robert made a lot of friends in King City, "and I know some of them thought of him as their child," she said. "He loved people and would sit outside on his patio and talk to everyone - no one was a stranger."
Alice described Robert, who never married, as very outgoing and a free spirit.
The morning he died, he was found by a neighbor on the sidewalk outside his condo with groceries strewn around, and a coroner determined that he probably had a heart attack.
"Bob just walked off into another life," Alice said. "That is the way he would have wanted it - he wouldn't have wanted to suffer through a long illness again
The people in his complex sound wonderful. The next-door neighbor said, 'He is like family to us,' and I think they kept an eye on him."
The memorial service was set for Aug. 22, with the music club chorus performing some of Robert's favorite songs.