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Date of Issue: July 09, 2008

Remembering the 'old dog'

Jim Hanson relaxes between stories at The Islander office.
Jim Hanson was honored by Cortez in 2006 for his coverage of the village in The Islander.
Jim Hanson's sweet tooth was satisfied on his 80th birthday in 2004 with a huge chocolate cake.

Jim Hanson stories are myriad.

He and I met more than 20 years ago when we were both editing newspapers owned by the same company.

We worked side by side, and I found that his journalistic experience spanned decades. Hell, he worked on a paper in Washington state that used linotypes to set copy - those bulldozer-sized machines that used to creak and crank out hot lead pieces of metal in the shape of letters that would end up on a printing press, inked and imprinted on the paper.

We learned how to use computers together.

It was a slow process for both of us old dogs in tipping our toes into the computer age, but we eventually got the hang of it all and could zip through like pros on our old Apple 2 computers - cutting-edge processors for the day.

Jim worked out of his back room on Longboat Key then. We would get page layouts on Friday afternoon, then work like fiends through the weekend to get the paper to the printer Monday and Tuesday.

After a month or so, and after getting to know Jim, I suggested it was silly for him to drive all the way to south Sarasota to the company office to pick up the layout sheets. Why not meet downtown somewhere, say, and maybe have a beverage? I suggested.

He thought that was great. And so we did. I’d deliver his mail on Friday afternoon, kibitz about how awful the news was, talk about what was going on - did I mention adult beverages? - and then we went forth to do the voodoo to finish the weekly newspapers.

After a while, I mentioned to another journalist that Jim and I were meeting on Fridays and asked if he’d care to join us. He did, as did others of a like mind, and others, and others.

It was Jim who gave our gatherings the name of “choir practice,” and those of us that remain here meet still.

Our respective newspapers got folded into another publication and although I departed, Jim stayed for a while. He went to the Pelican Press of Sarasota and Siesta Key and also started to do some work for The Islander. He eventually left the Pelican and worked exclusively for The Islander, where he quickly fell in love with Cortez. I’ve always thought that the villagers were just as quirky as Jim, which was the likely reason for the love affair.

Jim was always there for us. Breaking news? No problem - give Jim the basics and you’d have a complete article in 20 minutes.

Need a comprehensive analysis of something so complicated that even the people doing the analysis didn’t quite know what was going on? No problem - give Jim a few days and he’d produce a piece that was comprehensive, coherent and eloquent.

He was an award-winning journalist in Florida, but he was humble. He got a best-in-state in the press association contest for agricultural writing on an article he did on beekeepers, and another for religious writing on the St. Bernard Catholic Church 50-history and anniversary celebration. And there were others, too numerous to mention.

Jim called himself the “old dog.”

And I’m sure going to miss the old dog.

Jim died July 4 and many regular Islander readers will miss him.