Jean Hanson, who passed away at Maison Vale Hospice Feb. 3, never let her long battle with cancer stop her from working for what she believed in.
During her time as the director of education with the Rainbow District School Board, Hanson would go for chemotherapy treatments, and even though she was sick to her stomach, she'd go back to work, said her friend Jeanne Conroy.
“She was just such a dedicated individual,” said Conroy, who said she'd known Hanson for the better part of three decades through their mutual involvement in volunteer work.
“She was such a pillar in our community. Anything she took on, she gave her absolute best.”
She said Hanson, who was in her early 60s, had battled cancer for about a decade. Although she won an initial bout with the disease, it had recently come back, Conroy said.
Hanson retired from the Rainbow board in 2010 after a 40-year career in education. She'd been the director of education for six years, but had also been a teacher, special education consultant, principal and superintendent.
In her retirement, she became involved in raising money for the United Way Sudbury and Nipissing Districts.
Hanson was vice-chair of the organization's campaign in 2012, and was set to lead the campaign in 2013, but had to bow out due to illness.
Michael Cullen, executive director of the United Way, said Hanson brought a lot of “vision” to the campaign, including the idea of thanking each and every donor, and fundraising in the schools.
After the press conference last week announcing the results of the 2013 campaign, the United Way presented Hanson with a lifetime achievement award.
Accompanied by Conroy, Northern Ontario Business and Sudbury Living Magazine publisher Patricia Mills, who took over the 2013 campaign when Hanson was unable to continue, brought the award to her bedside at the hospice.
“She didn't wake up, but she physically responded when they told her we were there,” she said. Hanson's family was appreciative of the gesture, Mills said.
Everything Hanson did — whether in her professional career or volunteer work — was driven by her desire to help children, she said.
“She always had a famous saying that no child is left behind,” Mills said. “Every time I think of that, I think of Jean Hanson. She truly, truly believed you have to provide opportunities for children.”
She said Hanson had recently celebrated the birth of a granddaughter.
“She waited for this baby to be born, I've got to tell you,” Mills said. “She was born Jan. 1, and it brought so much joy to her life.”
Hanson received many accolades for her work. Among them was the 2011 Community Builders Award for Education, which is presented by Northern Life.
In an article published in Northern Life at the time of the award's presentation, Hanson said the concept of service to children is in her genes, as her grandmother and mother were both teachers.
She said she was looking for ways to continue to help children in her retirement.
“I am certainly interested in how I can contribute my skills to continue to make a difference to children and families ... because you don't just stop (when you retire).”
Funeral arrangements are not yet available.