CENTER HARBOR — Bess Jane Gallegly Hanson died peacefully at home with her family on Feb. 12, 2019, at the age of 97.
Born in Corning, Arkansas, on Aug. 25, 1921, Bess Jane graduated as Valedictorian from Corning High School, Class of 1938.
Money was tight during the Great Depression, so after only a semester at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, she went to work for the Post Office, saving enough money to go on to graduate from business school in Memphis, Tennessee. After a brief stint at Allied Mills, she passed the Civil Service Exam, and began working as Secretary to the Head of Ground School at Walnut Ridge Army Air Force's flight training school when it opened in 1942 (the only woman there) as the country began gearing up for World War II.
By 1944, the war was coming to an end, the flight school was closing down, and Bess Jane, knowing no one in Washington, D.C., decided to move there, where she worked first as the secretary for Mrs. Hap Arnold, head of the Air Force Volunteer Women, then as secretary to the commanding officer, Graves Registration, and then at the Pentagon, as secretary to the Air Force chief of staff, General Spaatz. Bess felt privileged to be a part of Air Force history when General Vandenburg succeeded General Spaatz and oversaw the transition of the Air Force to a separate branch of military service from the Army.
It was while working at the Pentagon in the spring of 1949 that she met General Vandenburg’s new pilot, Captain Lewis Charles Hanson, whom, after a whirlwind courtship, she married on Feb. 25, 1950. By the end of that year, she resigned her position to stay home and raise a family.
Bess was active in the Officers Wives Club at Andrews Air Force Base when daughter Victoria and then son Charles were born, and, in 1966, the family moved from Alexandria, Virginia, to Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. In 1968, the family again moved, this time to Otis Air Force Base on Cape Cod in Massachusetts, and then in 1969 on the retirement of Col. Hanson, to Hilltop Farm in Center Harbor, New Hampshire.
Devoted to her family and friends, Bess enjoyed going antiquing, doing crossword puzzles, gardening and cooking. She was a strong community advocate, so as her children grew up, Bess began working as the secretary to the selectmen in Center Harbor in 1980, then more generally in the Town Office, both full- and part-time, until about 2000.
Active as a founding member of the Center Harbor Memorial Park (Cemetery) Board, trustee of the Nichols Memorial Library, supervisor of the Checklist and assistant Treasurer for the Town, Inter-Lakes School Board member and treasurer over nine years, and as a volunteer for the Center Harbor Fourth of July races, Bess also taught Sunday School at the Moultonborough Methodist Church for many years before becoming a member of the Center Harbor Congregational Church. She was keenly interested in education and, as an active member in the Center Harbor Woman’s Club as secretary, then as president, she oversaw creation of the Thrift Shop, the proceeds of which generated a significant increase in the Woman’s Club Scholarship Fund.
Predeceased by her parents, Louise (nee Patient) and Arthur Brown Gallegly, and her husband, Colonel (Ret) Lewis Charles Hanson, she is survived by her son, Charles Gallegly Hanson (Jennifer Miller); daughter Victoria Helen Hanson (Steve Hannah, dec.); grandchildren Sarah Elizabeth Hanson Kirwan (Paul Robertson) and John-Charles Hanson Kirwan (Esther Woolhead); and great-grandson Benjamin Fofonoff-Kirwan. She is also survived by her sister, Louise Venable Gallegly Wilson; niece Louisa Ann Wilson; nephew Robert Louis Wilson; niece Cynthia Woodman Carver; nephew James Earl Woodman; and numerous great-nieces and -nephews.
Services will be on Saturday, May 25, at 11 a.m. at the Center Harbor Congregational Church in Center Harbor. Burial will follow in the Center Harbor Memorial Park.
Donations in Bess’ memory may be made to the Scholarship Fund, c/o Center Harbor Woman’s Club, PO Box772, Center Harbor, NH. 03226
The Mayhew Funeral Home and Crematorium, in Meredith and Plymouth, are assisting the family with their arrangements. www.mayhewfuneralhomes.com.