By Jane Seiss
When Pasadena resident and longtime teacher Gordon Hanna passed away in October, former students responded to his son John’s Facebook post about his dad with an outpouring of memories and photos. Many fondly recalled Mr. Hanna and the projects they had completed while they were his students.
Over the course of his 33-year teaching career, Gordon taught locally at Marley and George Fox middle schools. Before retiring in 1991, he spent 25 years at Northeast High School. At his retirement picnic, it was estimated that Gordon had taught about 10,000 students.
“He liked working with young people. He not only taught them about woodworking. He also taught them about life, following through and doing your best,” Gordon’s wife, Peggy Hanna said, also sharing that, for many, he was a favorite teacher.
“We often met students when we were out, and they’d tell us what they made in his class,” Peggy said. A photo of a carved wooden sailboat plaque was shared on Facebook. Another student posted a picture of a bedside table made in one of Gordon’s classes, furniture that is still in use today. After spending time with Gordon, students took away more than treasured objects, they carried on their teacher’s message to have a positive attitude about life.
“I’ll always remember him telling us the first day in his class that if our grades were at the bottom of the ocean, like whale poop, that we wouldn’t be doing anything in his shop!” recalled Craig Mauler, who still has a Canadian goose that he carved in Gordon’s class.
Always resourceful and engaged, it is thought that Gordon Hanna was the first Eagle Scout in Anne Arundel County. He earned the distinction in the 1950s and never looked back. The longtime Pasadena resident earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland, and after serving in the Army National Guard, became an industrial arts teacher. He and Peggy met at an after-work gathering in Harundale at what was then known as the Sunset Lounge, while they were both teaching at Northeast High School. Over the course of his remarkable life, Gordon took pleasure in his creative talents and was generous with his gifts, sharing with those around him — from his family to the community at large.
After traveling to the western United States as a child, Gordon was mesmerized by the beauty of rocks. He began buying them, cutting, shaping and polishing them into smooth cabochons that could be worn as jewelry. At 14, he went into business with his brother, Dave, buying rocks and transforming them into beautiful art for sale. Gordon was still buying rocks a couple of weeks before he passed away.
His craftsmanship has been enjoyed locally. Over the years, Gordon made many renditions of the Bayside Beach community sign, and he built the cross on Mountain Road at Magothy United Methodist Church, as well as the cross at the church’s chapel in the woods. Within the church, Gordon built the shelves for the Doorstep Mission food pantry closet. He was an assistant scoutmaster, enjoyed regional waterfowl festivals and made many decorative carvings for family and friends.
Brian Sanders was with Troop 785, which initially met at Fort Smallwood Elementary School and later met at Magothy United Methodist Church as Troop 1785.
“He was a wonderful scout leader,” Sanders said. “I remember him teaching me how to canoe, and we navigated the rapids on the Shenandoah River together by Harpers Ferry. He was an avid woodworker, too, and enjoyed mentoring scouts to help them earn their woodworking merit badge.
The Hanna family described Gordon as a humble man who loved his community. “He was a very special person,” John Hanna said. “I’m grateful he got to meet both of my kids. He loved life and enjoyed it every day.”
Until the end of his life, Gordon Hanna was teaching a woodcarving class at the Pasadena Senior Center. He was an active member of the Arundel Carvers. He had several works in progress, and members of the group are already finishing some of his pieces.