MANDEVILLE, LA. |
Harry Franz Hancock
Aug. 7, 1924 — Oct. 12, 2017
Harry Hancock of Mandeville, La., passed away on October 12, 2017, at the age of 93. He is survived by his wife, Betty (nee Pflittner); daughters, Beth Drewes (Bill) of Incline Village, Nev., Martha Hennegan (Neal) of Mandeville, and Nancy Hancock of Wellesley, Ma.; as well as nine grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Though he was born in Chicago, his family moved to Oconomowoc when Harry was a young child. It was in Oconomowoc that he developed his lifelong love of fishing and sailing, sneaked his first cigarettes behind the altar of Zion Episcopal Church, became an accomplished harmonica player, and met his wife, Betty (from nearby Cedarburg), as a teenager horsing around on Lac LaBelle. Betty and Harry celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in September 2017.
The Hancock family had returned to Chicago during Harry’s late teen years and were living there when World War II erupted. In 1943, Harry joined the many other brave young men who had enlisted in the military. He served as an Army corporal in the 288th Combat Engineers in the European Theatre. The horrors of that experience haunted him throughout his lifetime. He frequently, but selectively, spoke of those years and shared many stories, alternately heart-wrenching and heart-warming.
Following the war — and an astonishingly long streak of therapeutic rounds of golf with some of his closest friends, also recently discharged — Harry returned to Chicago and a career in retailing begun before entering the service. Chicago also happened to be where that pretty freckle-faced Wisconsin girl he remembered had been completing her nurse’s training. From humble beginnings in the paint department of Carson, Pirie, Scott in Chicago, Hancock later managed department stores all over the Midwest, and ultimately rose to the role of vice president and general merchandise manager of the retail division of Aldens in their Chicago home office.
With each of their moves (over 20!), Harry and Betty found a home in their faith community and the Episcopal church, in which both worshiped faithfully and served devotedly.
In “retirement” the Hancocks returned to Oconomowoc, where they reconnected with the community and owned a small retail business, blending Harry’s gifts for photography and merchandising and Betty’s eye for design. They traveled abroad for unique gifts for the shop and thrived in that popular enterprise, and in their antique lakeside home, where Harry’s parents had lived years before. Their new roles also led Harry to discover the joys of cooking. He became an accomplished chef, avid cookbook collector, and fan of cooking shows.
Wrenching as it was to leave their Wisconsin roots, the Hancocks’ 2009 move to Mandeville boosted cherished time with Louisiana family, and yielded a huge amount of tender loving care. “Mr. Harry” defined “the gift of gab.” His status as the family warehouse of trivia was sustained by “OK, Google” when his failing eyesight made surfing the internet difficult. He could be both side-splittingly funny and deeply sentimental. He was a mensch. And a pistol.
Of his great loves — all things English, fishing, the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, gin martinis and brandy Manhattans, gardening, photography, dancing, music (especially playing his harmonica accompanied on the piano by a daughter or friend), sailing, dressing well, cooking, Agua Lavanda — Harry treasured his bride, their family, and friends the most. He was adamant about having well-charged phones, cell and landline, at hand, and he stayed in touch until the very end. Though for years self-described as “so old I don’t buy green bananas,” he was not ready to ring off.
Those piercingly bright blue eyes, so like his mother’s, will be sorely missed.
Memorials may be made to Zion Episcopal Church in Oconomowoc; Christ Episcopal Church of Covington, La.; or The National WWII Museum in New Orleans, La.