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A Bear of a Man

Slim. How does a guy who is 6' 4" tall and a 225-250 lb mass of muscle get to be called Slim?

It must have been one of those cases where friends thought it was funny - like the short guy called "Stretch" or the slow kid nicknamed "Flash."

To people who knew him from the old neighborhood, and to all our relatives and a select group beyond that, my Dad was known as "Slim." Or "Uncle Slim" to the nieces and nephews. That's still how they refer to him. It sounds weird if you think about it but the name just fit.

You could always tell if someone had met him in recent years - they used his given name, "Norm" and sometimes it just sounded weird. He was never called "Uncle Norm."

Norm Hanson in army (on right)
Norm Hanson (on right) in Army

In reality, he actually was somewhat slim for someone of that size. He had the barrel chest of a weightlifter but the waist of a track star. (I realized this after unsuccessfully trying on some of his pants after he died.)

High school wrestling and football had built him up. The army years continued the process. After the army he worked out hard to qualify for the police and fire exams.

These were different from the workouts that we do now. No fancy machines, no spas - not even free weights. Dad did 500 or more pushups and situps every day to get in better condition for the tests.

He ended up in construction instead of police or fire and the physical demands of that job kept him muscular and strong.

My own limited experience in construction can attest to this. When you are one of the big guys in a crew (and I am big but 2 inches shorter than Dad was) you get assigned to the heavy lifting because, well, because you are big and can do it.

In my late teens and early twenties, it was fun doing the heavy stuff - competing with other guys and watching muscles grow. But I didn't HAVE to do that. I don't expect it was as much fun when you had to do that to get the paycheck to feed your growing family.

Pat Sweeney and Norm Hanson
Of course, Dad towered over Mom as well

Growing up and through his time in the army, Dad was called "Bear" or the "Cub Bear." It's amazing to see how current generations are so much bigger than the last few. It's not unusual to see 6'5 or 6'6" kids in the neighborhood playing ball.

But when Dad was growing up (he was born in 1929) 6'4" masses of muscle were less common. I remember standing in church on several occasions looking around and noticing that Dad was the tallest guy there.

To a little kid (not to mention grown adults) he could be intimidating. My friends growing up were a little afraid of him - he was huge and had a booming voice. Plus he could scoop you (and a few others) up and deposit you where you needed to be.

Norm Hanson in Christmas outfit
No, those weren't his usual
slippers and clothes


Once we were crawling under the porch and my friend Dick got a chunk of wood stuck in his leg. Dad scooped him up with one hand like he was a toy and carried him to the car for the ride to the hospital.

Norm Hanson, Pat Hanson, Dan Hanson, Bud Sweeney
Dad seemed especially big when I was small - even with Mom and her dad at the table


He and his pals would go to each others houses and paint the entire house in a day. I recall seeing Dad lumber from the station wagon with a 24' wooden ladder in one hand and a keg of beer (hey, painting is thirsty work!) in the other.

When Dad boomed out a command as coach of little league or football, believe me, everyone jumped - sometimes even the opposing coaches. But he was a gentle giant once you got past the gruff exterior and kids and animals gravitated to him.

Norm Hanson
A (usually) Gentle Giant
Norm Hanson - Cub Bear - Slim


It was great having a Dad who was so big and strong. I could tell that I was envied by some of the other kids who had fathers that were short or just not very imposing physically.

Of course, nobody should be judged by their size, or lack of it, but Dad's impressive physique contained an even larger heart. There was nothing "slim" about the man, except his nickname.

by Dan Hanson




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