PORT ORCHARD — An amiable, soft-spoken man, Stanley Hansen turned 100 years of age amidst a raucous cacophony generated by his family, friends and his fellow residents at a birthday celebration in his honor at the Washington Veterans Home in Retsil on May 24.
Sitting placidly at his place of honor in front of about 100 people — perhaps a coincidence? — who made note of Hansen’s birthday milestone, the Naval veteran simply smiled as a litany of well-wishers passed by to offer their congratulations.
On each side of the centenarian were family members: on his left was Hansen’s son Don, who protectively attended to his father’s wishes on this special day. On the other side was Stanley’s sister Olga, who made the trip to Retsil from her home in Tacoma.
After the attendees serenaded Hansen with a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday,” the guest of honor was handed a knife to slice the first piece of a flag-draped red, white and blue birthday cake. He’d have the cake-cutting honor twice more — two other birthday cakes sat backstage ready to be sliced up later during the party. Another tasty treat on his birthday request list: ice cream floats.
Despite Hansen’s seemingly quiet nature, he led a life that belied his calm exterior this day. He was in the U.S. Navy and was an active serviceman during and after World War II — 1943 to 1946 — working as a “mine man” at a Naval facility in the Bay Area, a place that built mines for the war.
After his service years, Hansen bought a tavern in Tacoma. But prior to that, he got a taste of the nightlife in California while serving as a waiter for Sally Rand, a famed burlesque dancer and actress most recognized for her ostrich feather fan dance.
As did many other servicemen and women just after World War II, he got married and had two children, including a daughter who passed away many years ago. But after numerous wives, Hansen concluded the married life just wasn’t his cup of tea: “I just didn’t care for it,” he mused.
Now as in his earlier years, the Retsil resident said he’s appreciative of his long life, especially so after having a nice family that visits him often.
With reaching his birthday milestone — one that few of us will ever do — Hansen said he’s “feeling OK.”
Which is about as good as it gets for someone who has lived through most of the 20th century and the first portion of the 21st.
“I’m slower than I used to be and I can’t get around as much as before,” Hansen mused.
He was asked the perfunctory question posed often to centenarians: “What’s your secret to reaching 100?”
The Naval veteran thought for a few moments, then concluded such a secret doesn’t exist.
“I really don’t know how I did it,” Hansen said with a grin. “I’ve been wondering where the last 20 years went. Before I knew it, I’m 100.”
In the meantime, though, Stanley said he’s busy living his life, with only an occasional detour onto Memory Lane.
If he needs a reminder of a life well-lived, there’s a large display at the other side of the hall featuring dozens of photos from different periods of his life. Also on hand were framed letters of congratulations from President Trump, Gov. Jay Inslee and Port Orchard Mayor Rob Putaansuu.