Joseph Franklin Hansard Jr.
October 26, 1931 – February 3, 2019
Col. Joseph F. Hansard, Jr. October 26, 1931-February 3, 2019 A self-made man in the truest sense of the phrase, Col. Joseph F. Hansard Jr. came of age in the Great Depression and proceeded to build a wonderful life for himself and his family through what he called “a little luck and pure hard work.” He had a distinguished career as a jet pilot in the U.S. Air Force, where he proudly and honorably served his country in times of war and peace. And as much as he loved flying, his greatest happiness was as a father, grandfather, brother and son. Col. Hansard passed away peacefully in Apple Valley, California, on February 3, 2019, with his loving and devoted family by his side. Born in Duncan, Oklahoma, on October 26, 1931, he was the oldest of what would eventually be a family of four siblings. After a few itinerant years, the family settled in the Pacific Northwest, living primarily in and around Seattle (including a stint on a farm in Poulsbo that he still recounted in later years). His own father died when he was 14 years old, leaving him to help his mother, Lillian, raise and support his brothers, Jim and David, and sister, Mary. Just out of high school he went to work for Boeing as a riveter, about which he admittedly knew nothing, but soon became a radio electrician. With the draft for the Korean War in full swing – and not able to picture himself “slogging through the mud with a gun taller than me” – he tried to enlist in the Air Force, but found there was a 6-month waiting list, a time during which he surely would have been drafted into the Army. Just in case, he put his name on a standby list, and sure enough, he soon got a call from the Air Force that he would be shipping out within 72 hours. During a series of basic and advanced training assignments at Lackland and Keesler Air Force Bases, he was identified through testing as outstanding in electronics (after failing cooking) and went on to study ground radar. But he had always wanted to fly, and it was during this time that he was accepted into the Aviation Cadet Training Program. He was soon off to Hondo Air Base in Texas, where he trained on T-6s, and he then moved on to Big Spring AFB to train on T-28s and T-33s, his first jet. He completed the cadet program, received his wings and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant. Of the 26 who started in his squadron, only 13 made it to graduation. Soon after, he was sent to Korea, flying F-84 fighter-bombers. Returning stateside after the war, he settled into his career as an Air Force pilot, regularly sending money home to help his family. He had stints at Cannon AFB in New Mexico and Maxwell AFB in Alabama, where he met his wife and future mother of his two children. He was flying F-86s by this time, and then F-100s, and he was regularly sitting nuke alert around the globe, in defense of the U.S. and its allies. Another assignment brought now-captain Hansard to Bitburg Air Base in Germany, flying F-105s, and then to the University of Maryland for his final collegiate semester, where he earned a degree after having studied nights in the preceding years. And from there it was on to Nellis AFB in Las Vegas, where both of his children would be born, Brett in 1966 and Dawn in 1969. With the Vietnam War raging, then-Major Hansard was sent overseas, where in the course of 8 months in 1966-67 he flew 100 combat missions over North Vietnam, leading his flight of four aircraft. He received a Silver Star – the third-highest military combat decoration that can be awarded to a member of the Armed Forces – for actions in December 1966, when he turned back after a successful bombing run to disperse enemy aircraft that were attacking a crippled wingman who had suffered battle damage and became separated. He would receive a Purple Heart for a mission in January 1967 after his aircraft was hit by ground fire. His canopy was shattered by bullets and glass flew into his face and eyes, yet he somehow managed to land safely with blood streaming down his face and his vision severely limited. A proud man but never boastful, during his tour in Vietnam he would also be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Air Medal with eleven Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Air Force Commendation Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster. Of the Silver Star, he would later say with a smile, “It’s the third highest decoration there is. And after going through that, I didn’t want to get any higher!” He also acknowledged, more than 40 years later, that the war changed him, as it did so many others. “It’s not something you can just turn on and off,” he said. Returning home to Las Vegas and a young baby son, and soon joined by a daughter, there were more job transfers, to Langley AFB in Virginia, back to Las Vegas, and a slightly less eventful second tour of duty in Vietnam, flying F-111s. All told, he was a fighter pilot for more than 17 years. Promoted to colonel and with his flying days largely behind him, he was transferred to the Pentagon and then, lastly, to George AFB, where the family made its home in Apple Valley – and where he would retire and happily (for the most part, he always hated the strong desert winds) reside for the remaining 40 years of his life. Even in retirement he never really slowed down. He had second careers in real estate and as a much-in-demand handyman. And then he started spending his free time out at Apple Valley Airport, where he renewed his love of flying and eventually purchased his beloved Beechcraft Sierra, enjoying hundreds of hours in the cockpit piloting family and friends. He grudgingly gave up his pilot’s license only after he had a heart transplant in 2007 at the age of 75. His final tally was almost 9,000 flight hours (6,700 in jet aircraft) – meaning he spent a full year of his life in the air. In these later years, he enjoyed nothing more than doting on his two devoted granddaughters, Emme and Marley, who lovingly called him “Papa Joe,” and smiling in contentment as his family buzzed in activity around him. He always said that it was his responsibility to take care of his family, and he was generous to those he loved and completely devoted to their happiness. He survived various health challenges and setbacks with his typical quiet strength and confidence, confounding doctors on more than one occasion, and he fought to the end this last time as well, until he had given everything he had. Col. Hansard is survived by his two enormously proud and thankful children; two special grandchildren whom he showered with love; a younger brother and sister, who are eternally grateful for a lifetime of love and support; an adoring daughter-in-law for whom he was a second dad, and her loving family; two sisters-in-law, three nephews and six nieces for whom he was always a rock; and a legion of loyal and caring friends who will miss him but never forget him. And now, we all look to the heavens and know he has slipped the surly bonds of earth, and is dancing the skies on laughter-silvered wings.
Desert View Funeral Home
11478 Amargosa Rd
Desert View Funeral Home
11478 Amargosa Rd
11:00 am - 12:30 pm
Joseph Franklin Hansard Jr.
February 20, 2019
Joe was a member of Pilot Training Class 54 Fox. A true friend and Classmate. As so many of our Class have flown West ( Air Force Term when a Pilot Dies), we remember the good times at Hondo, Texas
and Big Springs, Webb AFB, Texas.
Have a smooth landing Friend. The rest of the Class will eventually join you in that Fighter Pilots Squadron of 53 Fox, Pilot Training Class,
From the members of 53 Fox.
Jim ( Ralph) Mayton
February 13, 2019
Joe and I met when I was learning how to fly. He was a wealth of knowledge and our friendship grew very much over the years. We spent many hours flying in his beloved Beechcraft Sierra N6651T. I kept my mouth shut and my ears open. I asked Joe if he could help me understand my fathers ribbons and medals. He helped me understand what my father endured while in Vietnam.
Joes humor and stories is what I’ll miss so much.
I remember a time when he and I were installing a new strobe lite in the tail of the Sierra. I was hanging precariously by one leg tightly wrapped around a ladder 8ft above the ground. Both hands holding onto the strobe lite assembly and the wire plug. You see Joe wanted to know if it would work before we fully installed it. As he was walking toward the front of the airplane to turn on the power master switch I said, “hey Joe. Is this going to hurt”!
Without even tuning around he said, “it ain’t gonna hurt me a bit”!
I will miss my friend.
February 13, 2019
I was so blessed to have the chance to know Joe. He was very kind and humble and had an amazing sence of humor! On one occasion I was driving him to a doctors appointment and missed the off ramp, he just looked straight ahead and said I better recalculate! That’s how he was, no complaining. He made a difference in the world and in our lives! He will be greatly missed !
February 7, 2019
Joe is the father to a good friend of mine. I fondly remember the numerous sleep overs and him being so hospitable and entertaining. He introduced me to the lemon shaped pancake (his spatula had a lemon shape to it). Among the nicest people I know and funny too. Aviation was in his blood. I ran into him so many times at Apple Valley Airport that it seemed like he lived there.
I will cherish my memories of Joe forever.