Hanson, Walter O. (Deceased)
Walt was born in a suburb of Logan, Utah, on March 13, 1913, where his father worked as a carpenter at a local lumber yard all his adult life. His father was an avid fisherman and, as a youth, Walt accompanied him on most of his fishing trips. His father later got him interested in hunting ducks in the sloughs and deer in the nearby Cache National Forest. After high school, he enrolled in Utah State College, pursuing a career in forestry, range, and outdoor recreation. In June 1935, Walt graduated from college and was immediately offered a job with the Forest Service in southern Utah as a landscape architect on the Powell National Forest at Panguitch, Utah. He soon was assigned to the Posey Lake Civilian Conservation Camp near Escalante. His duties included fighting forest fires, laying out campgrounds, and assisting the local forest ranger with his recurrent duties. At the end of the summer he was given Civil Service status and transferred to the Black Hills of South Dakota, working at various camps of the Civilian Conservation Corps as a crew foreman, doing various kinds of conservation work. In the summer of 1936, Walt wrote to several universities seeking a scholarship in a graduate school of forestry. Louisiana State University offered him a teaching fellowship, which he promptly accepted. It paid him $50 a month while he pursued a Master of Forestry degree. He was required to teach two classes daily for the stipend. By the spring of 1937, he had completed all requirements for the MF degree, and thereafter requested reinstatement in the Forest Service. He was assigned as assistant forest ranger in the Roosevelt Forest and sent to Fort Collins, Colorado, to assist the ranger in the Buckhorn Ranger District. At the end of the summer, he was detailed to various assignments of the Forest Experiment Station at Fort Collins, then as assistant ranger on the Gunnison Forest. The big promotion came when he was made district forest ranger in the San Isabel Forest in southern Colorado, and then sent to Gunnison to become district ranger in the Pitkin District. Although exempt from military duty during World War II, Walt wanted to serve his country, so he enlisted in the Army and was sent to Camp Sutton, North Carolina, for basic training. From there he went to Aberdeen Proving Ground, where he graduated from Officer Candidate School. He was retained on the staff and faculty of the school. After more than a year in this assignment, he was transferred to the Pentagon to serve on the research staff of the Ordinance Department. After the war, he became active in the Army Reserves, attaining the rank of Lt. Colonel, when he eventually retired from reserve duty. While on active duty in the Army, he married Lt. Helen L. Massrock, who was a member of the Army Nurse Corps. Eventually, they had four children. After termination of active military duty, Walt returned to the Forest Service, starting with temporary field assignments, while applying for graduate school at University of Michigan, leading to a PhD degree in wildlife management. His thesis was a Life History of Mountain Goats in the Black Hills. After college, he returned to the Forest Service for three years as ranger in the Bighorn Forest at Greybull, Wyoming. After this assignment, he was transferred to the Black Hills as an assistant supervisor of the Harney Forest in Custer, South Dakota. In 1955, he was transferred to Portland, Oregon, as wildlife staff officer in the Regional Office. In 1962, Lloyd Swift brought him to Washington, D.C., to serve as his assistant. After Lloyd retired, Walt became the wildlife staff officer in the Washington Office until his retirement in 1971. In 1968, Walt was elected as a member of the Washington Biologists’ Field Club and actively participated in all the activities on Plummers Island. He always looked forward to his cabin inspection duties and occasionally had his wife accompany him. After suffering a severe stroke in 1985, his health went downhill, and eventually he was unable to hike to the Island to do the cabin inspections. During the early years of his retirement, Walt and his wife traveled to many foreign countries, including East Africa, Russia, and China. During this same period, he purchased a dairy farm in western Pennsylvania, where he became a “gentleman farmer,” all of which came to an end at the time of his stroke in 1985. Life, with all its problems and successes, has really been good to him, which he credits to a Higher Power and to his family. Walt died on March 27, 2008 of cardiopulmonary arrest. He was 95 years old.