Dr. John Andrew Hansen died peacefully at home in the presence of family on July 31st at the age of 76. The cause was pancreatic cancer, which he fought bravely for two years. His death came one year to the day from his retirement from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, where he worked for over four decades. The last year of his life, he remained deeply involved with his storied research as a professor emeritus.
John’s pioneering contributions made life-saving treatments available to countless patients now and in the future. With his Hutch team, he conducted the first bone marrow transplant from an unrelated donor. He played a key role in establishing national and international registries that link patients awaiting transplants with potential donors, vastly expanding treatment to those who otherwise would have no access. Insights generated by John’s work have had a profound impact on improving the availability and safety of treatments for leukemia, lymphoma and blood and immune system diseases.
Despite receiving prestigious awards and abundant support for his research throughout his career, John remained ever humble. His roots and character embodied the phrase, “salt of the earth”. John was born in Minneapolis, Minn., on May 1st, 1943. His parents, Ruth and Alfred Hansen, were farmers. His mother worked full-time as an OB nurse while his father served as a Lutheran pastor whose calling led him to minister to soldiers as a US Army Chaplain in the European theater of WWII and later, in VA hospitals. A natural caregiver like his parents, John earned a reputation as a compassionate clinician with a gentle and reassuring presence.
John studied biology at the University of Minnesota and received his MD from Stanford University. His training and career took him through London, Minneapolis, New York City, and finally, in 1977, to Seattle. He settled his family on Mercer Island at that time and lived there until his death.
John’s keen mind and commitment to a cure poured forth from a bright spirit and open heart. His curiosity and enthusiasm were boundless. Passions included but were by no means limited to international travel, world history, and the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. He will be remembered as a rare gentleman, a jovial host, and a true wit. He lives forever in the hearts of those who knew him as a devoted and beloved family member and friend. His legacy includes many mentees and colleagues who consider themselves blessed by his selfless support and collaborative attitude.
John is preceded in death by his parents and his first wife, Mary Ann Wilson Hansen, who died of cancer in 1993. He is survived by his wife Suzanne Hansen and their son, Nicholas Hansen; the children of his first marriage: Eric Hansen (Marie Hansen), Peter Hansen (Kavitha Viswanathan), and Connie Jenson (Benjamin Jenson); and seven grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21, at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 8501 SE 40th St., Mercer Island, Washington, 98040. A reception will follow immediately at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall, 1836 72nd Ave. SE, Mercer Island, Washington, 98040.
Memorial gifts can be made to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. John would also be profoundly honored by every new registrant at BeTheMatch.org. It’s been said few physician-scientists are responsible for as many lives saved as John, but it’s the donors who make that possible.