Former U.S. Rep. Richard Hanna dies

Former Congressman Richard Hanna, 69, died on Sunday of cancer, according to a statement released by his former spokeswoman on behalf of his family.

Hanna, a Republican from Barneveld, represented first the 24th and then the 22nd Congressional districts from 2011 to 2017 before choosing not to run for re-election. He also founded Hanna Construction, which specialized in excavation.

“Richard was honorable, he led by example and always stood for what he believed was right,” reads the statement from Renee Gamela who worked for Hanna during his time in Congress. “His passing leaves an enormous hole in the hearts of those who loved him — most of all his beloved Kim, his children Emerson and Grace who were his reason for being, his siblings, his family and his friends.”

Soon after news of Hanna’s death became public, politicians started sending out tributes to the moderate Republican known for breaking with his party when he thought his party was wrong.

“The congressman was a giant of upstate New York, a public servant who ‘talked the talk’ and ‘walked the walk’ in his bipartisan service to this community,” said U.S. Rep. Anthony Brindisi, D-Utica, who holds the seat once held by Hanna. “He put people before politics, our hometown above all else, and he led with true heart. Our community is better for his service and he will be dearly missed.”

Long-time friend Robert Julian remembered his friend as a politician who was first and foremost a public servant. “He didn’t need the job,” he said. “He was a very successful businessman. And as a member of Congress, he was a man of courage and character. He put country and community ahead of partisan politics … He would answer questions directly and honestly even though he knew frequently he was not telling people what they wanted to hear.”

Julian also remembered Hanna as an excavation specialist who had a reputation for taking on complex and complicated jobs and getting them done “efficiently, competently and in a timely manner,” he said. The excavation and leveling of Murnane Field in Utica was one of Hanna’s projects, he said.

But Julian also remembered his friend Richard Hanna. One day, years ago, Hanna invited Julian and his wife to take a boat ride on Otsego Lake and said it was fine for Julian to bring his golden retriever Rockefeller who went everywhere with him.

“We arrived and I remember Richard lifting Rockefeller into the boat and talking to him and sort of paying attention to him, giving him the tour of the lake like he was a person,” Julian said. “He had a great sense of humor. It was a great day. His love of animals and people resonated on that day.”

Long-time friend Michael Cominsky met Hanna almost 40 years ago when his crew accidentally destroyed an underground cable while widening the driveway at Chicago Market. Cominsky was at the market and spoke to Hanna.

“It was rare,” he recalled, “to start talking to a guy who could quote philosophers while he was sitting on top of a bulldozer.”

Cominsky also remembered talking to Hanna decades ago about what they wanted to achieve in life.

“He said, ‘You know what, I’d really like to be on the board of the Community Foundation because I think I could do a lot of good,'” he said. “And that’s when Richard didn’t have more than two cents to rub together.”

“He had beliefs and values,” Cosminsky said. “He was a great role model for the people and someone people in the community could be proud of.”

Cosminsky also talked about how proud Hanna was of his two young children. “It’s Emerson and Grace that kept him going,” he said.

Julian recalled running into former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner at a hotel in New York one day. Since the two men were standing right next to each other, Julian introduced himself as a friend of Hanna’s.

“And Boehner’s face lit up,” Julian recalled, “and he said, ‘Richard Hanna, there’s a guy with guts.'”

Hanna’s family will hold a memorial service and celebration of Hanna’s life later in the spring.


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