New London’s Roger ‘Tiger’ Hanson dies at 76: Well-known founder of marine business remembered for doing so much more
NEW LONDON — Roger “Tiger” Hanson, 76, is being remembered for operating a marine business in downtown New London that was known far and wide, but friends and family know that’s only part of the story.
He was also a world-class, high-speed boat racer; an award-winning mechanic who could fix any boat motor; an avid angler and outdoorsman; the captain of his own restored houseboat; and a skilled woodworker.
And, family and friends always enjoyed his good humor and famous laugh, not to mention his energy and drive.
“He never quit,’’ said his daughter, Melissa Hansen of New London, while remembering the man everyone knew as Tiger.
Hanson died peacefully Tuesday at his New London home, family members said.
He never really retired. Hanson continued to fix boat motors in a small shop until his final days.
He operated Tiger Marine for 44 years.
He grew up in New London, where he graduated from high school in 1956. His experience in the marine business began soon after: He took a job offered him by Cliff Quam with Little Crow Marine.
He served in the Minnesota National Guard, and from 1960 through 1963 competed as a racer in high-powered boats in Miami, Florida.
He topped speeds of 90 miles an hour in Mercury motor-powered boats he raced off the Florida coast and on inland lakes elsewhere in the country during the summer.
He could be even faster on asphalt. He raced competitively at Minnesota tracks and sometimes carried his love for speed to the roadways. He had his driving privileges suspended at one point, he once confessed to a reporter.
He married his wife of 49 years, Ginger, in 1964 and opened Tiger Marine in Spicer. He moved the business in 1967 to New London, where it became a downtown landmark.
Minnesota fishing personalities Al Linder and Babe Winkelman were among some of his early customers.
An avid fisherman himself, Hanson once lamented to the West Central Tribune that he had never got to fish on the opening weekend in May. He was too busy at the shop fixing all the boat motors of other fishermen.
They brought their problems to Hanson with good reason. Mercury awarded Hanson one of its first “master mechanic” awards in 1968, and continued to recognize him with the prestigious award for 33 consecutive years. Recipients must have five years of service school training and 10 years of experience with zero customer complaints to be considered.
He met Mercury’s founder while racing boats in Miami, Florida, and featured its boat motors when he opened Tiger Marine. He also handled Arctic Cat and Mercury snowmobiles, and later, Yamaha boat motors.
He knew how to enjoy time away from work too. He loved to entertain guests on the Crow River by hosting them aboard the 5-ton houseboat he had restored and enlarged, and called the “Karishon.’’
On shore, he was a talented woodworker. His love for the outdoors was obvious in the many bird houses he built.
He once told a reporter that he picked up his nickname “Tiger’’ in 1957 in a Willmar movie house. He stood up and growled when the MGM lion appeared on the screen, and an acquaintance shot back: “Sit down, Tiger.’’
He was a charter member of the local Ducks Unlimited chapter, and a member and former commander with the American Legion in Spicer. He was a member of Peace Lutheran Church in New London.
Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Peace Lutheran Church. Visitation will be held one hour prior to the service at the church.
He is survived by his wife, Ginger; and children, Richard (and Jody) Hanson of Minneapolis and Melissa (and Tim) Hansen of New London.