On February 21, 1944, the Norse Gods belched from their collective gullet a man of unfathomable fortitude. He was given the name Hans, a fitting name for one as tenacious as he. Hans had a rough start, yet blossomed into the most wonderful man you can imagine.
Born in Oslo, Norway, Hans came to America when he was only 8 years old. Alone. On a boat. He was reportedly seasick for the entire trip. The only English he knew was what he learned on that boat, a limited vocabulary of Yes, No, and many choice four letter words. He was reunited with his mother, who had married an Italian man named Gaiotti, and grew up on a Vermont dairy farm.
Not speaking English, his early education in a small town, one classroom school did not go smoothly. He would often leave in frustration, following the railroad tracks home until he found his family's farm. But school got better. He started kindergarten at age 8, which means he was 17 as a freshman on the high school basketball team. And when most boys where coming of age to drive, Hans was the first guy in school that could buy booze. He was popular, to say the least.
Home life was rough for Hans, and at age 11 he came to the realization that if anyone was going to take care of him, he'd have to do it himself. He got a job at a golf course (that's right, at age 11), where he stayed employed until the age of 26. He eventually became a master caddy, earning as much as $100 per round from the rich golfers who played at his course. His childhood employment enabled him to buy his own clothes, school supplies and comforts. From the beginning, he had a strong work ethic. Hans did things right.
He went to college, earning a degree in business administration, with a minor in accounting and language arts from Nathaniel Hawthorne College. He finished school early, cramming in 21 credits per term, and got a job at a Vermont ski resort. The skiing was great. He was good with the kids, helping them on the chair lifts and rope tow. Now a very handsome man, he was also good with the ladies.
1967, Hampton Manner, located right on the border between Vermont and New York State. Popular with the college kids because of the lower drinking age in Vermont. Here, Hans met the love of his life, Linda Brock. Instantly infatuated with each other, they soon fell deeply in love. Linda possessed stunning Italian beauty, and had a very Italian father. When Hans would bring her home from a date, her father was sure to blink the porch lights, cutting short the goodbye kiss. But even his trigger-happy light-switch finger could not dampen his daughter's love, and Hans and Linda were married in 1969.
Hans sought work as a salesman. He sold things. Insurance, books, you name it. It was not easy work, and often frustrating, but he worked hard and eventually landed a job at International Harvester, an agricultural equipment company. His first-hand knowledge of farming helped him relate to his customers and understand his company's products. He was successful.
In 1971, Hans and Linda had their first child and only son, Erik. Kristen came next a few years later. Hans was a loving father, but his job required a lot of travel, and he didn't see his kids as much as he wanted. He considered seeking work as a high school teacher, but was turned down by the principal who said he was too handsome and would cause trouble with the girls. Really. With that, he continued his work as a sales representative, partnering with Linda, a school teacher herself, to look after the kids while he was away.
His sales territory vast, Hans did a lot of driving. Every car he owned was equipped with a CB radio. He went by the handle Grumpy, while Linda was known as Snow White. He had an amazing sense of direction, and his 20/10 vision could find any place he'd previously visited, no matter how long ago. He didn't remember street names, nor could he recite directions. He just knew where he was, and where he was going.
When there was driving to be done, he did it in bulk. 700 mile days were not uncommon, much to the chagrin of his family on long summer vacations. Rest stops were frowned upon, and timed to coincide with refueling. He'd go even longer when he was driving alone, and faster, too. The total number of speeding tickets he received in his lifetime is unknown, but he almost always had at least one showing up on his driving record. Do the math; that's a lot of tickets.
Hans always wanted a Corvette, but since this was not the ideal family car, he never got one. However, he was notorious for secretly altering his vehicles to enhance their performance. It's amazing what sway bars, sport suspension and low profile wheels can do for a minivan's performance. The new exhaust system and "power chip" in his 454 equipped pickup truck was damn near frightening. He loved to drive, and drive fast, no doubt fueled by his amateur stock car racing days. He wore driving gloves. Often.
He continued to work hard, but always insisted on doing things his way. He was wonderfully stubborn and free spirited, as illustrated by this story of just another day at the office:
Hans was to attend a trade show for his company, and as part of a marketing effort, he was to wear a special hat. He hated this hat. His boss wanted him looking sharp, so he ordered him to go get a haircut, and report back before leaving for the show. In classic Hans style, he went the the Double Thes salon, and got the biggest, poofiest perm imaginable. With a confident, hair-bouncing strut, he reported back to his boss, where he explained the situation: So big was his newly acquired afro, the cheesy hat would no longer fit on his head, and he would not be wearing it. His boss, wide mouthed in disbelief, simply said "I'd fire your ass if I didn't like you so much." Mission accomplished. And it was groovy.
His job led to many transfers, and the family moved to a new state quite often. From New York, they trekked to Pennsylvania, Missouri, Utah, and Minnesota. Here in the land of 10,000 lakes, Hans and Linda were blessed with the best two-for-one deal ever: Twins. Amy and Carrie were born in 1983. Now a family of six, Hans was once again transferred, this time to Oregon.
Hans liked Oregon. The whole family did. With both mountains and the ocean just a couple hours away, it had it all. And the heavy rains were a welcome change from the heavy snows of Minnesota. When his company again called with a transfer notice, Hans had to decline. His change in work now kept him closer to home, and he felt he was given a second chance at experiencing fatherhood with the twins.
He became an avid runner, participating in about 10 Hood to Coast events. He always loved to snorkle, and could stay under water for a remarkably long time between breaths. He was in great shape, which made it all the more surprising when he had a heart attack at age 54. He made a full recovery, however, and stayed very active. While he did make several lifestyle and dietary changes (mostly thanks to his loving wife), Hans never compromised his stubborn will to revel as he saw fit. His family's mild frustration was dwarfed by their admiration of his spirit.
Time went on, the twins grew up, and Erik and Kristen both married and had children, giving Hans a nice collection of four grandchildren. He loved them dearly, and they melted his heart. His grandchildren worshiped him, their almighty smiling blue-eyed Nordic giant, Grampa V. It suited him well.
As the nest emptied, the house was too still for his taste, and dogs were added to the family. Hans loved dogs, and they somehow completed him in a way that is hard to describe. He loved them, and in doing so, learned to express love more openly with the world.
He started a small business in 1999 with Linda. Night and day, they were together. Through good and bad times, their love for each other grew even stronger. They were best friends, with a common vision of retiring and growing old in each other's arms on the Oregon Coast.
In 2008, they purchased their dream house in Depot Bay, Oregon. They worked hard on the home, pushing their bodies until they hurt all over. But they didn't care, as the end goal was finally at hand. In 2010, with Hans turning 66 in February and collecting retirement, they planned to slow down and enjoy their ocean home.
Tragically, Hans passed away on the first day of 2010.
He is survived by his loving family, who are all in shock at his abrupt departure from this world. They will never forget the wonderful man he was, and the love he had for them. They won't forget his unique sense of humor and his limitless generosity. They loved him for who he was, and everything about him.
They loved him unconditionally, despite the irks throughout their life together. They reluctantly accepted his relentless display of underwear around the house. The extended solitaire games in the bathroom (which grew more hi-tech with the introduction of the laptop computer). His high-pitched banshee scream that would induce a barking frenzy from any dog within 300 feet. His ridiculous family domination of Parcheesi and Monopoly. His puzzling obsession with Rush Limbaugh. All part of him, part of the man they loved.
Everyone has a happy place. For Hans, it was sitting on his ocean view deck, smoking a cigar, a glass of chardonnay in hand and a dog at his feet. I suspect that's what he's doing right now: Relaxing, smiling, watching over an ocean of friends and family, you and me. Rest in peace, Hans Voldengen. Rest in peace.
If you didn't see them before, here's the details on the Funeral Arrangements.