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I knew that his days were growing short but still, it came as a personal blow to learn that Stan Hanauer had passed away last week. I flat loved the guy and I will miss him a great deal. Stan was a fine human being.
There are so many good people who will read this post that knew Stan far better than I, who can tell the great stories of his Navy days, or his hydroplane racing days. I wasn’t a close personal friend, but Stan and I were simpatico on a special level as fellow woodbutchers, boat makers, and luthiers (stringed instrument makers). And that counted for something with Stan. As a guitar maker, I knew things that Stan wanted to know and, as an experienced shipwright, he knew what I wanted to know. So each time we met, usually by chance, we had great and animated discussions about all kinds of cool and interesting stuff. It never felt like there was enough time for the full and necessary information transfer.
I met Stan late in his life, when he was firmly ‘retired’, meaning he was busy with one project or another. The meeting happened on my second visit ever to the Hydroplane & Raceboat Museum, back in 1996. I barely knew David Williams, and certainly knew nobody else, when David introduced me to Stan who was visiting our old South Park museum facility. By his name, I figured that he must be Chip’s dad, but I wasn’t at all familiar with his accomplishments in unlimited hydroplane racing. In fact, didn’t know anything about Stan Hanauer at all. But I was immediately impressed by his gracious manner and easy charm. His old school classiness reminded me of Fred Astaire or Al Bowlly. You just don’t meet a lot of folks like that these days, so I took note.
In a minute or two, I learned that he was working on a beautiful little Whitehall sailing dinghy (which later became the darling of the 2002 Wooden Boat festival, down on Lake Union). I burned to build a wooden boat, so I wanted to hear all about it. Stan was gracious and encouraging. During that conversation, he figured out that I made guitars and, since Chip was getting into the guitar in a serious way, he wanted to know all about making one himself. Knowing what I know about constructing classical guitars, I thought that his determination was incredibly brave. But it also speaks to the most important aspect of Stan Hanauer, the one thing that he should be most remembered for today: being a great Dad.
Whether we were running the 1982 Atlas out on Lake Washington, or attending a guitar recital on a rainy Sunday in Tacoma, Stan was always there for Chip. I am sure that he was always there for Scott Hanauer too. Whenever the topic came up, he always seemed both proud and amazed by his sons, and a genuine feeling of deep affection and respect came into his voice. Many fans envy Chip for his remarkable accomplishments a race driver. I envy him most for having had a terrific, loving, and engaged father.
During one of our conversations, I learned that Stan had been a sales representative for the local Delta Milwaukee tool distributor at about the same time that my dad purchased an entire shop full of their power tools. We laughed when we realized that it was highly probable that Stan sold those tools to my dad, who later passed them on to me. Among those tools, my old 14 inch Delta band saw is still the most used, and the most venerated. I cut out my first plywood hydroplane on that band saw at age 10 and I will use it today to make guitar parts, some 52 odd years later. When I finally go, it moves on to the Museum. When my father died, and the saw came to live with me, I had his name engraved into the table, along with the name of my godfather (dad’s best buddy, and the guy who taught me to use the darned thing safely). It is a nice way to think of them fondly whenever I fire up the old beast.
This morning, upon hearing the news, I called the local engraver to come over again to add one more name to the table. It seems fitting, somehow.