Eugene Jenkins Hanna
September 21, 1931 – February 24, 2019
For Gene Hanna there were at least five things about which he was absolutely certain:
The correct way to throw a baseball; the value of fruit cake as a Christmas gift; the vital importance of education; the wisdom of bidding no trump at bridge, even with only 14 points in his hand; and that God loves us all.
Gene was born September 21, 1931, in Gastonia to Janette Jenkins Hanna and Oba Thomas Hanna Sr. He was next-to-the-youngest of six children, learning frugality and resourcefulness at a time when every nickel in the pocket was a fortune.
With an older brother, Gene shared a paper route, delivering this newspaper in Gastonia and learning how to get customers to pay up for their news.
He was a natural athlete, drawn to basketball and baseball at Gastonia High School. He rarely bragged, but he did admit that he “could throw the ball all right.” His skill as a pitcher was good enough to get him on the team at Belmont Abbey, where he first went to college, then after transferring, at UNC Chapel Hill. His teammates called him “Egg,” because of his expansive dome-like forehead. The name didn’t stick.
What did stick was a lifelong love of watching sports on TV, particularly Atlanta Braves baseball and the UNC Tar Heels basketball team.
Drafted into the U.S. Army in 1955, Private Hanna was eventually posted to First Army headquarters in New York City. Returning on leave, he married his sweetheart, Anne Best on Christmas Day 1956 at Crowder’s Creek Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They honeymooned – as was the fashion – at Niagara Falls, New York.
After his honorable discharge, Gene and Anne moved to Chapel Hill for Gene to work on a master’s degree in education. In July 1958, when their first child was about to be born, Gene dropped off Anne at the hospital, then went to take a final exam.
In all, Gene and Anne had two daughters and a son: Debbie, Martha and John.
To them, Gene emphasized the values of family togetherness, education, hard work, service to the community and deep faith.
Family togetherness meant a vacation together every year, often at the beach. As the children married and Gene’s grandchildren arrived, the rental houses became more and more crowded, the fun louder. He could be seen watching with amusement or burying his nose in a paperback thriller.
Gene’s career took him from high school baseball coach in Great Bridge, Virginia, to assistant principal and principal in schools in Gaston County. He was serious about his work. And he knew what the job demanded.
“Being the principal of the school meant that you did anything that had to be done, and sometimes that meant being the janitor,” he recalled.
He retired as principal of Rhyne Elementary School.
Gene and Anne had a large field around their house on Crowder’s Creek Road and Gene always had a “garden” there. That “garden” required a full-sized tractor and produced a bounty of squash, tomatoes, green beans, corn, asparagus and sickly-sweet and leathery scuppernong grapes. Nothing went to waste.
The Crowder’s Creek house had a large, cool basement with a garage door, ideal for his fundraising work with Gastonia Civitan. As longtime fruitcake fundraising chair, tens of thousands of pounds of Georgia-made fruitcake were delivered by tractor trailer, passing through his basement on the way to area grocery stores. Sadly, most of his family did not inherit Gene’s fondness for fruitcake.
As a member of Gastonia First Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church for more than 50 years, Gene served as a deacon, elder, clerk of session, and moderator of the presbytery. His older sister, Ethelda, was an ARP missionary in Pakistan, and he took to heart her message of the importance of living life as an example. All his children went on to leadership positions in their home churches. His son, John, became an ordained minister and senior leader in InterVarsity Christian Fellowship student ministry.
But Papa Gene, as his grandchildren called him, was not without his imperfections.
He had a heavy foot on the accelerator, which led to a number of polite conversations with state troopers over the years.
And his impatience with inattentive bridge partners was legendary. His play was aggressive, and his partner always had to follow his style of play. Just two weeks before he died, he was still playing–and winning–at bridge.
Papa Gene’s quality of life had deteriorated in recent months, but he maintained a positive outlook. A man of few words, they became even fewer.
As the end came near, he told one of his grandsons, whose wife was newly pregnant, to “look after that baby.”
It was consistent advice. After all, that’s what he’d done for his family all his life.
Gene leaves behind his wife of 62 years, Anne Best Hanna; his daughter, Debbie Griffiths and her husband, Richard, of Atlanta, Georgia; Martha Monico, and her husband, Edward, of Madison, Connecticut; John Hanna, and his wife, Shelly, of Boone; and six grandchildren: Hanna Ribner (Alex), Ian Griffiths (Mariana), Patrick Monico, Ryan Monico, Molly Hanna, and Katie Hanna.
A memorial service will be held at 1st Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church of Gastonia, 317 S Chester St., at 1:30 p.m., Saturday, March 2. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Missions Fund at 1st ARP Church.
Carothers Funeral Home at Gaston Memorial Park is honored to be serving the family Eugene "Gene" Hanna.
- L. Anne Best Hanna, Wife
- Deborah Jane Hanna Griffiths, Daughter
- Richard Griffiths, Son-in-law
- Martha Ann Hanna Monico, Daughter
- Dr. Edward Monico, Son-in-law
- John Harvey Hanna, Son
- Shelly Hanna, Daughter-in-law
- Janette Jenkins Hanna, Mother Deceased
- Oba Thomas Hanna, Father Deceased
- Life Well Celebrated Memorial Ceremony Saturday, March 2, 2019
- Receiving of Guests Saturday, March 2, 2019
Eugene Jenkins Hanna
February 28, 2019
God bless you Hanna family. We remember Mr. Hanna as a kind and hospitable friend. Our prayers are with you all. Our love especially to John, Shelly, Molly and Katie. God bless you as you grieve and celebrate a life well lived following Jesus Christ; faithful to wife and family. The Riddle family loves you.
Randy, Rebecca, Reilly, Cooper, and Mary-Kathryn