BUFFALO — Cliff Hanson, 91, grew up on a farm near Swift Falls in the 1930s. Although he stopped going to school so he could help keep the family farm afloat, Cliff has always felt the lack of a high school diploma.
Now, in honor of his many accomplishments, along with a life of generosity and kindness, Hanson will receive that diploma from Benson High School, which rarely awards diplomas to those who have not graduated from the school.
His diploma will be presented during a special celebration Monday, Dec. 9, at Lake Ridge Care Center, 310 Lake Blvd South in Buffalo.
Benson High was informed about Hanson’s sacrifice through ResoLute program staff at Lake Ridge Care Center in Buffalo, which is a ministry of Cassia. The program helps people celebrate their lives and complete unfinished business.
When he started school, he spoke only Norwegian. At school, he’d start a fire in the stove heater to warm up the one-room schoolhouse. After eighth grade, Cliff stopped going to school because his father fell ill. Though it didn’t stop him from living a full productive life, he’s felt the sting of that missed opportunity ever since.
Hanson married in 1949 (at the age of 21) and raised a family of four — three girls and a boy. A bit of a daredevil with his own car, his wife-to-be said she needed to marry him to get him “to settle down or he’d end up killing himself in that car.” Still, he was a very skilled driver and taught his children how to be experts, especially at driving in reverse. His love of cars didn’t stop at home. He was a big NASCAR fan and would get to any racing track he could to watch the cars. His favorite driver was Dave Pearson, who won rookie of the year in 1960.
As a family man, he worked a farm near Holloway for four years. At the farm, his two oldest daughters would drive their tricycles down the very long driveway to meet up with dad on the spreader to ride back home with him.
He moved his family to St. Paul in 1957 and worked at Taystee Bread while attending night classes to become a certified welder. His daughters loved to play “house” with the miniature loaves of bread he’d take home from work.
Once certified, he was a welder for 23 years. He was so accomplished, he was the “go to” guy for difficult jobs and was heavily relied upon. After being laid off, he became a school bus driver in Monticello while working maintenance at a local hotel before returning to a brief stint as a welder in Minnetonka.
Throughout his life, Cliff was honing his skills for all things connected with machinery, though he could do so much more. He would study any problem ahead of him. Only after he understood the problem did he start in on the solution. He was so good at it, word-of-mouth praise was enough to keep him quite busy.
In addition to the usual farm tasks and his penchant for fixing anything and everything, his affinity was for automobiles. His dream was to run an auto repair shop, but farm and family took priority. It is because of his sacrifices for others that they were able to prosper. He never stopped learning, though. Decades before we had the internet, he was self-taught and became quite accomplished. He never stopped reading, learning, studying and bettering himself.
Because of this, he is being recognized with an honorary diploma from his would-be alma mater, had life circumstances allowed him to attend.
The diploma reads as follows:
Benson High School, of Benson, Minnesota, is pleased to present to Clifford H Hanson, for his selfless dedication to family and community, and his willingness to forego his formal education for the betterment of the lives of those he held dear, this honorary diploma.