MADISON - Sally (Porch) Hansen died at BrightStar Senior Living, on March 10, 2016. There she reached the end of a decade-long descent into the darkness of dementia and with it release from the agitation and anxiety caused by that dreadful disease.
Sally will be remembered as a teacher, feminist, mentor, and friend. Also known as a lover of cats, chocolate, and conversation, she lived a vigorous, involved, and intellectually engaged life.
Born on Jan. 23, 1929, in Kankakee, Ill., to James W. and Rachel B. Chadwick Porch, Sally grew up in Detroit, Mich. A 1951 graduate with honors from Wayne State University, she became a high school English teacher. In the summer of 1954 she completed an M.A. degree in English Literature at UW-Madison.
While serving as a dormitory Housefellow that summer, Sally dated W. Lee Hansen another Housefellow, a graduate student in economics. After their marriage on Dec. 26, 1955, she joined Lee in Baltimore, where she taught English at the prestigious all-girls Eastern High School. In 1957 they moved to Washington, D.C., where their daughter, Ellen, was born, and then to Los Angeles, Calif., in 1958, where another daughter, Martha, was born in 1960.
A series of moves took them from Los Angeles to Chicago, back to Los Angeles, and then again to Washington, D.C., before Lee's appointment in the UW-Madison Economics Department in January 1965. Sally quickly became active in the Madison chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), the League of Women Voters, and the Junior Great Books Program. She also resumed her intellectual pursuits in UW courses and, inspired by Professors Harry Clark and Joyce Steward, published several papers.
As one of her proudest accomplishments in those early Madison years, Sally spearheaded institution of a city-wide school lunch program. Her motivation: to enable mothers of school-age children to join the workforce by relieving them of having to be home preparing meals for their children during the 90-minute lunch period. Madison's school lunch program, begun in 1967, will mark its 50th anniversary next year.
In 1969 Sally began teaching English and Communications at the Madison Area Technical College. Rather than selecting the liberal arts, college-transfer program, as might be expected for someone with her background in language and literature, she chose to teach students in technical fields, who were less than enthusiastic about learning writing skills. To gain perspective on teaching these practically-minded students, she spent a sabbatical year enrolled in courses on welding, auto mechanics, and printing. She used this "hands-on" learning to discover new ways of reaching these students and thereby earned their lasting respect.
While at MATC, Sally did much to pave the way for women who felt intimidated by the all-male, "locker room" environment then dominating the East Side Tech Center. So pervasive were gender assumptions in that era that the building had been constructed without women's bathroom facilities! Never afraid of a confrontation, Sally spoke out about issues female faculty and students faced in this environment. She provided individual support to victims of sexual harassment and was instrumental in establishing a system-wide grievance procedure to deal with such complaints. She also mentored many female instructors, who admired her high teaching standards.
After retiring in 1993, Sally took up another form of instruction: teaching English as a Second Language through the Madison Friends of International Students (MFIS). When health problems eventually interfered with her classroom teaching, she became a conversational partner with a succession of young women, mainly wives of young faculty or graduate students from countries including Thailand, Turkey, China, Italy, Pakistan, and South Korea. She found this one-on-one teaching extremely satisfying and formed lasting friendships with these young women.
Always available for coffee at Starbucks or lunch at the old Ovens of Brittany, Sally enjoyed nothing more than a lively conversation. She was a friend to many who deeply appreciated her ability to listen empathetically and to offer support and perspective about personal and professional issues. She was also well known for her irreverent sense of humor and her low tolerance of pomposity; she did not suffer fools gladly and did not mind saying so. Her direct (some would call it "blunt") communication style was appreciated by those who had similar thoughts they were hesitant to express. This facility also made Sally a valued member of several book groups and engaged her active membership in the First Unitarian Society and her involvement in the work of Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and the Hemlock Society (now Compassion and Choices).
Well-known for her love of the English language, Sally was frequently sought out by friends and family members for guidance on grammar and usage. Indeed, even as her memory faded, she regularly corrected the grammar and pronunciation of those who cared for her, whether doctors, nurses, or assisted living staff members. However, given her erudition in this area, grounded in four years of high school Latin, she was, during her teaching career, remarkably forgiving of her students' grammatical lapses; to those completely bewildered by the apostrophe, her advice was to simply not use it at all!
Sally exhibited her lifelong love of literature by frequent quotations from the likes of Shakespeare, Wordsworth, and Virginia Woolf, as well as her extensive vocabulary. Although remarkably plainspoken at times, she was also fond of arcane words which she delighted in using for dramatic effect.
Survivors include her husband of 60 years, W. Lee; daughters, Ellen "Ellie" (Harvey) Dunham of Glen Ellyn, Ill., and Martha (Lina Sandve) Hansen of Albuquerque, N.M.; four grandchildren, Zachary of Portland, Ore., Calvin of Culver City, Calif., Hannah of Berlin, Germany, and Tessa of Glen Ellyn, Ill.; her sister, Nancy of Woodland, Calif.; and her sister-in-law, Judy Porch of Dearborn, Mich. Her brother Richard predeceased her, as did her parents. She is also survived by nieces and nephews and grandnieces and grandnephews.
The Hansen family appreciates the dedicated and compassionate care Sally received from the staff at BrightStar Senior Living and Agrace HospiceCare. A special thanks goes to BrightStar's Nurse and Wellness Director, Robyn Shearer.
Memorials may be made to Agrace HospiceCare, Planned Parenthood, and Dane County Humane Society. A celebration of Sally's life will be held later this spring (2016). For now, please share your memories of Sally at www.CressFuneralService.com.
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About the Author
At age 92 I decided to showcase my recent and current writings on a variety of topics outside of my career interests as an economist. My wife Sally’s dementia, my experiences of war, and my interests in improving higher education all compel me to write.
For most of the last decade I maintained a low profile, necessitated by my wife Sally's suffering from a decade-long siege of vascular dementia. After she passed away several years ago I wrote about our experience, in the belief that this would be helpful to the many others who suffer from dementia and their family caregivers. I am currently seeking a publisher for my book manuscript: The Forgotten: Dementia and the Right to Die.
Over the past few years I began working on several other writing projects that are described more fully elsewhere in my blog. These include a nearly-completed book manuscript on my "expected proficiencies approach to the college major'' as a vehicle for reinvigorating liberal education. I continue to write on the shortcomings of UW-Madison's affirmative action policies and programs that over the years have been renamed "diversity and inclusion" policies and programs.
Within two weeks of my graduation from UW-Madison in June 1950, the Korean War broke out. I was drafted and expected to be sent to Korea to join our fighting forces there. But instead I was sent to Turkey for 18 months. How lucky I was. I am also writing a memoir of my Korean War military experience when I served as an U.S. Army adviser in our military aid program in Turkey.
Until I began branching out beyond economics, I failed to realize what a profound effect the Great Depression and World War II had on me as I grew up. I have already captured some of these recollections, with more of them to follow.
With that introduction, I turn you over to my blog entries as well as my other writing projects described more fully elsewhere in my blog. Best wishes ~ W. Lee Hansen
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Award-winning author W. Lee Hansen, Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Full bio.