Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Our hearts are heavy today as our family announces the passing of our beloved husband, father, and brother, Ben Hanson. With the abiding strength and stoicism that were his nature, Ben battled stage IV lung cancer for more than a year, but on Thursday, December 2, 2021, his fight ended. He had recently celebrated his 68th birthday with his wife of 41 years, Greta. Despite the pain, Ben was brave to the end. His courage inspired his family, friends, and even his doctors.
Ben was born November 21, 1953, to Calvert and Elaine Hanson in El Paso, TX. He was the middle child of three boys: Westy, the eldest, and Jim, the youngest. Ben spent most of his boyhood, from the age of four until he was a teen, living a modest, rural life with his family outside of Bemidji, MN. His childhood, spent hunting, fishing, and exploring the wilds of Minnesota with his brothers, helped fuel his ambition to become a game warden.
In 1966, at the age of 13, Ben and his family moved from Bemidji to settle in Roswell, where Ben’s father, a retired Air Force veteran of both WWII and the Korean War, had been stationed at Walker Air Force Base years earlier. Over summers, Ben would still return to Bemidji to work with his father and brothers building cabins. While there, he also joined the Bemidji Gun Club team and learned the sport of clay pigeon shooting—a hobby that would greatly enrich his life in later years.
As a teen, Ben liked to play basketball, golf (which he became quite good at), and ride his vintage Honda motorbike. In school, he did well and excelled at math, much like his mother, who was a local math teacher. Ben also continued to explore the outdoors and learned an appreciation for the New Mexican landscape and its wildlife during time spent hunting with his friends and family.
Ben graduated from Roswell High School in 1972 near the top of his class. He continued on to college and earned dual degrees in Wildlife and Fishery Sciences from New Mexico State University. In 1978, he realized his boyhood ambition and was hired by the NM Department of Game and Fish. His first assignment was as the District Officer for Cuba, which is how he met his wife, Greta Larson, who worked at the Seven Springs Fish Hatchery at the time. They were wed on May 3, 1980. Ben considered her the love of his life and his best friend.
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Ben and Greta lived in Cuba until he became the Southeast Area Public Affairs Specialist in April 1982, and they moved to Roswell. The couple welcomed their first child, Ryan Wayne Hanson, on Aug. 23, 1985, and their second, Travis Eugene Hanson, on March 15, 1988. Ben enjoyed doing with his kids the things that made his own childhood so special. Hunting, fishing, and shooting with their dad are some of his boys’ fondest memories.
Aside from being a father and a husband, Ben’s proudest accomplishment was the time he spent as an officer of the Game and Fish Department. It was his life’s great calling. As the Public Affairs officer in Roswell, Ben became a well-known figure in the community — writing in columns and articles that appeared in papers across the southeast, including the Daily Record; giving talks and presentations to the public; and spending time both in front of and behind the camera. From filming game department activities like trapping and big game surveys (which often required lugging an onerously heavy camera all across the backcountry) to his segments and recurring hunting and fishing reports that featured on the local news. But what Ben enjoyed most was teaching kids and “catching bad guys” while on patrol. Many of the kids he taught still remember Ben from their hunter education training and the Project Wild games he played in their classrooms. It was his “devotion to educating New Mexico’s youth” that earned Ben the 1994 Chaves County Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award. It was the first time a Game Officer received the award. In 2004, after 26 years with the NM Game and Fish Department, Ben retired.
One of Ben’s favorite things about retirement was that he never had to miss another Vikings game. He also continued to enjoy the outdoors and spent many relaxing hours dove hunting with his labs and fishing with his wife. In 2015, he found the Chapparal Skeet Club, and it became a second home to him. It gave Ben immense pride to serve as President of the Skeet Club for several years. While there were many hardships in his final years due to his health, his time at the club, and especially the friends he made there, brought him respite and lifted his spirits when he was low.
In his last year, Ben was greatly comforted by the time he spent with his wife, fishing at Conchas Lake and taking walks with their dogs out in the country; seeing the success of his son, Ryan, who started his career as a Mental Health Professional after earning his master’s degree in Counseling and Forensic Psychology; and watching his youngest get married to a wonderful woman, whom Ben liked very much. He even walked down the aisle with his wife and his son, unassisted and without his cane.
Ben is survived by his beloved wife, Greta; his eldest son, Ryan; youngest son, Travis, and his wife Lilly; his brother, Westy, his wife Betty, and their daughter Bonnie; cousins Dave Hanson and Mercein Warren; and numerous nieces, nephews, and other relations. He was preceded in death by his father, Calvert, mother, Elaine, and younger brother, Jim.
Ben loved telling stories. So, to honor and celebrate his life, his family has created a memorial website where they kindly request that those who knew Ben, or even those who met him only once, gather to share their stories of him—through photos, videos, memories, and words—so they can be saved and cherished. A memorial ceremony for family and close friends will be held at a later date. Any details and updates will be shared through Ben’s memorial website.
In lieu of flowers, if you are moved to do so, please donate to either The Nature Conservancy or the New Mexico Wildlife Center on Ben’s behalf.
Rest in peace, good officer.