Harry Hanson, ‘Fiddling Wheat Farmer,’ dies
Funeral services for Harry B. Hanson, 98, of Gordon, Neb., were held Dec. 27, 2012, at the United Methodist Church in Gordon.
Burial was at the Gordon Cemetery.
Harry Benjamin Hanson was born in a sod house on Aug. 24, 1914, and raised on a small farm in a Norwegian settlement north of Glenham. He was the second of four born to Engval and Blanche (Arnold) Hanson. Harry was raised during hard times and was only able to attend school through the eighth grade.
As was in those days, the main entertainment was neighborly house or barn dances, which Harry would attend with his parents. While the other children played, Harry would sit watching and listening to the fiddlers as they played the old dance tunes. After first attempting to fabricate a fiddle from a cigar box, his family helped him obtain one by selling Cloverine Salve. He earned enough money to purchase his first violin for the mere sum of $2 from the Montgomery Ward catalog, and by the age of seven, he was taking turns playing with the adult fiddlers, standing on a chair because of his small stature. Many elders claimed he was better than the older players even at that early age. In these times he would have been deemed a child prodigy. Of course, music lessons were not available, so playing by ear was Harry’s style.
His teenage years were spent working hard on various farms, picking corn by hand, cutting timber and joining the Civilian Conservation Corps. After being discharged from the CCC, he obtained employment with his cousin Lawnie Beed at Valentine, Neb., where he worked until moving to Gordon, where his excellent mechanical skills landed him a job as shop foreman for Miller Brothers Chevrolet.
It was in Gordon where he met a local farm girl, Ruth Kayton. The two were married on Jan. 21, 1938, and with both being very frugal, managed to save enough money for a down payment on their first quarter of farmland in 1943. It was at that time that he began building his own farming operation while running a repair shop in town and doing custom trucking. Although long hours of hard work and dedication to his family took the majority of his time, he still managed to play the fiddle and for many years had one of the top country and western dance bands in the Midwest, backing up many great starts as they came through the country making personal appearances.
It was not until Harry was in his late 40s that he had the time to practice long hours and began entering distant contests, many on the national level. Since that time he racked up scores of championships and became known as “Fiddling Wheat Farmer,” the pride of his hometown, Gordon. Perhaps one of the greatest attributes of this multi-talented man was his philanthropy, as he not only donated generously to his church and favorite charities, but also spent countless hours entertaining folks in nursing homes in area communities, veterans homes and various other church and civic events, all without accepting any compensation.
Harry departed this life on Dec. 21, 2012, at Countryside Care in Gordon. He was preceded in death by his parents; brother, Albert; sisters, Ruth and Lou Etta; and his beloved wife of 72 years, Ruth.
He is survived by his four dauthers, Marilyn (Gene) Gruenig of Rapid City, Mary Lou (Roy) Anderson of Gordon, Carol (Michael) Pedersen of Hopkins, Minn., and Yvonne (Glen) Hollenbeck of Clearfield; five grandchildren, Debbie Thompson, Bart Weaver, Shelley Shepherd, Teresa Halley and Shari Sandoz; and his step-children, Tim Anderson and Kathy Bate, Kim Guerra, Kelene Zamora and Keith Gruenig, and Shawn and Jay Hollenbeck; his great-grandchildren and a host of nieces and nephews.
A memorial has been established for the Tri-State Cowboys Museum or the Gordon Volunteer Fire Dept. Donations may be sent to Chamberlain Pier Funeral Home, P.O., Box 336, Gordon, Neb., 69343.