A Brief Look at the Life of
PASTOR DON J. HANSON, Ph.D.
Wonderful husband, father, grandfather, scholar, pastor, friend
Then his beloved grandmother died, and he moved from relative to relative, working in a bowling alley and an apple orchard to help pay his way, until, on October 10, 1949, his seventeenth birthday, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. Completing his high school credentials for a GED, he did so well on his tests, he was recommended for Officer Training School. Only his age held him back.
After serving six months in Okinawa working with classified documents, Don was transferred to Korea. As his First Cavalry unit strove to make it through a dangerous mountain pass amid fierce fighting, suddenly a mortar landed right beside him and his buddy—killing his buddy instantly, and leaving Don critically wounded. While waiting and praying for the medics to make it through the mortar fire all around him, Don made God a promise. If Don survived, he would serve Him the rest of his life.
The medics did finally reach him. After that he was flown to hospitals in Japan, Hawaii, and the United States to recuperate, including ones in Tennessee and Louisville, Kentucky, for nearly three years of treatment and recovery. He also earned seven medals for his bravery, including the Purple Heart. But the shrapnel in his body remained there his entire life.
In Louisville, some great opportunities opened up for this wounded vet. He began attending the Servicemen’s Victory Center, a Wesleyan Methodist ministry for servicemen and women. They encouraged him to lead singing at their meetings, and do street preaching—reaching out to people on the streets of Louisville with the Gospel of love and hope. He also became active at a local Baptist church, and was invited to teach an adult Bible class there. In addition, he was able to take some classes through local public colleges. Finally he was honorably discharged as a Corporal on January 23, 1953, just in time to begin classes at Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois, to prepare for the ministry—and keep the promise he made God on the battlefield.
Even with the help of the G.I. Bill, paying for all his expenses at the private Christian college was hard, and Don always had a job or two on the side, usually on-campus ones, but also off-campus in construction. He was eager to learn all he could about God’s Word, along with a major in History and minor in Philosophy. Then as soon as he received his Bachelor’s degree in 1956, he began working on his M.A. in Biblical Studies, majoring in New Testament. He especially loved studying Koiné Greek (the New Testament’s original language) for five years, and using his vocal and trumpet-playing talents with his college’s traveling Gospel teams. He also enjoyed working as Graduate Assistant to both the college Chaplain and the head of the Social Studies Division.
But he also made time to be active in Wheaton Bible Church. And soon, with his pastor’s encouragement, he and some friends started a new church themselves—nondenominational Glen Ellyn Countryside Chapel in a rapidly-growing new suburb near Wheaton—with Don as their enthusiastic Youth Pastor.
But something else new entered his life at that time—meeting a fellow graduate student, Bonnie Blanche Compton, who was also on the editorial staff of Scripture Press, headquartered near the Wheaton campus. Bonnie, a Christian Education major from Cincinnati, Ohio, and very active in Wheaton’s First Baptist Church, was soon also working with Don at Countryside Chapel. Wedding bells followed in Wheaton on February 15, 1958, with pastors of both their churches officiating.
Don graduated with his M.A. in June 1959, with his thesis on the Epistles of Timothy and Titus, including his own translations, and immediately began his Master of Divinity studies. He and Bonnie were also serving with an Open Air Campaigners evangelistic team from Australia, who invited them Down Under to serve with the Ambassadors for Christ, working with all denominations there. So they joyfully left for Down Under that fall, soon after the birth of their first child, Robin Dale. During their time in Australia, Don traveled all over the continent with Australian team members, while Bonnie helped out at the ministry’s conference grounds. Then, after almost a year’s service there, they returned to the U.S., just in time for the birth of their second son, Chat Patrick.
Back home in Wheaton, Don applied to be an IRS agent, to help support his growing family. After successfully completing his training course, he became an official agent, working out of the Wheaton and Chicago area offices. Then, after the birth of their third son, Jay Bryan, they bought a house out in the new suburb of Streamwood, where Don became active in the music ministry of their local Baptist church. Then, outgrowing their first little home, they moved to a larger one in a nearby town, where Bonnie taught in the local schools. Unfortunately, that town was full of Mafia members and their relatives. Indeed, one Sunday, Don and his family returned home from church to find a street-facing window of their home riddled with bullet holes—retaliation for his insisting that Chicago Mafia members to pay their legally due taxes to our government.
He and Bonnie, together with their three very young sons, had already been involved in evangelistic work for some time now, including in local and farther-away churches and county fairs. So friends encouraged Don to enter that ministry fulltime. Thus Don Hanson Evangelistic Crusades, officially endorsed by Moody Monthly, was born. Don also started a daily radio program called “Morning Bible Time.” His new ministry was well-received and he led several week-long evangelistic campaigns that fall.
Unfortunately, that area of Illinois is bitterly cold in the winter. During the previous few years there had been constant ice storms and blizzards. His young family’s health was always under attack—with the boys in and out of the hospital with pneumonia and other serious ailments. Indeed, when Don was stricken with a ruptured appendix, he had to drive himself to the hospital at night in the middle of an ice storm, as all phone lines were down, and Bonnie and his sons were all in bed with pneumonia.
Finally their family physician recommended that, for the good of all their health, they move to San Diego, California, where he had formerly lived. So just before Christmas in 1966. they packed their belongings into a moving van, and headed West in their trusty little VW bug.
After spending that Christmas in a motel, they bought and moved into a home near a small Baptist church, surrounded by a lot of Navy housing. Very quickly Don was involved in the ministry of that church--plus, as their Associate Pastor, he started a separate ministry in the Navy housing area. But, of course, he needed an outside job to support his family. First he tried the area IRS offices—based on his five years’ experience in the field—but they had no openings. So—since he had already begun taking computer classes with the IRS back in Illinois—Don enrolled fulltime in systems classes at Coleman College there in San Diego. On graduation, he was hired by the headquarters of the Jack-in-the-Box restaurant firm, which was near his home—to help develop a computer system for their corporation.
Don’s ministry expanded also, as he was recommended to pastor another Baptist church near El Cajon, east of San Diego. He and Bonnie served there for two years, until she developed health problems and he felt led to resign. After that, they began attending College Avenue Baptist Church, where Don was soon teaching an adult Bible class of 100 and more, plus serving on the side as Chairman of the Board of Directors and Bible and Greek teacher at San Diego Bible College. Then in 1972 he helped found the Southwest Institute of Christian Learning in San Diego, which later became a branch of Bethel Seminary, plus taught at Fletcher Hills Bible College, as well as leading home Bible studies around town. He and Bonnie also started leading “Scriptural Marriage Seminars,” first at College Avenue Baptist, then at churches throughout Southern California for the next seven years.
Nor did his studies stop. He continued advanced computer studies at City College and the University of California, San Diego. Then he began his Ph.D. studies at the California Graduate School of Theology in Pasadena, commuting from San Diego once a week, and graduating in 1975. His projects there included his own translation of the Song of Solomon from the original Hebrew.
Then things changed at his secular job. Jack-in-the-Box was bought out by a large corporation, and Don was out of a job. But he soon landed a new one as a Computer Systems Technical Instructor in Orange County, and the Hanson family moved there, living first in Tustin, then moving to Santa Ana. Eventually Don became a Senior Programmer Analyst at Pacific Mutual Insurance Company in Newport Beach, and Bonnie began work there also, as an accountant for PM’s investment spinoff, PIMCO.
Meanwhile, as soon as they arrived in Orange County, Don became active at Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa. He and Bonnie taught in Calvary’s Adult Bible School and at their Lake Arrowhead camp. Soon they also became involved at a Baptist Church nearer their home, where Don taught college-age young people, became a Deacon, and helped out with a local mission work for Filipinos. In time, he was invited by the Faith Filipino Fellowship to become their Associate Pastor, then their Pastor, serving them for nine years, until they were able to call a pastor from the Philippines. During this same period, Don counseled many people at his secular job, officiated at several of their weddings, and helped out at two Billy Graham Crusades.
On the side, he and Bonnie joined his father Oliver in forming a small musical group to play for senior citizen events in Hemet (in nearby Riverside County), where Oliver lived. They called their group “Donnie, Bonnie, and Dad,” with Oliver on the saxophone and clarinet, Don singing and playing the trumpet, and Bonnie at the keyboard. Also, Don took theology classes at Talbot Seminary, plus he and Bonnie attended M.B.A. classes at Pepperdine University, Irvine extension campus, for two years.
Then in June 1992, while leading singing and playing his trumpet at a family reunion in Hemet, Don suddenly suffered a massive heart attack. He was given only a 10% chance of making it through—but, with a prayer chain interceding for him in both Orange and Riverside Counties—he did. After that came multiple “V-tacks” (ventricular tachycardias), even a sudden cardiac arrest.
But Don kept on going to work each day, while he researched into what new medical device or techniques might help his heart problems. By the next spring he had a new AICD (implanted cardiac defibrillator/pacemaker), and new hope and strength. To help his odds, he watched his diet and weight, and began walking and biking—when possible, taking three-hour rides along the Pacific Coast beach, stopping to feed the ground squirrels.
Meanwhile, as he gained strength, he became involved in another church near his home, Faith Community Church. Soon he was a Worship Team member, Deacon, and Adult Bible teacher, eventually becoming an Elder and Church Chairman. On the side, he taught Greek and Bible for several years at an extension campus of Los Angeles’ Harvest Bible University.
Finally in October 1997, Don was 65 and eligible for retirement from Pacific Mutual. By then he had spent 33 years in the computer field. Just one problem: The year 2000 loomed not too far ahead, and the computer systems at his work weren’t set up to allow for a change to the 21st century. So Don stayed on with Pacific Mutual until he made sure everything would be ready for that special date (known as “Y2K”). Then he retired at the end of January, 1998.
But of course he never retired from life! He continued his teaching at HBU, his long bike rides (more often now), his deep involvement in his local church, his love for gardening and cross-country trips, and for people. He continued working with Bonnie in leading the Orange County Christian Writers Fellowship and going with her to all her writing groups and speaking engagements. He also continued his writing career—publishing God’s Master Plan and Study Guide, My Decision for Christ Bible Study Course, One- Way Study Guides for the Whole Bible, plus articles in other books, such as a Chicken Soup for the Soul one. Then in January 2006, he became Pastor of his church, Faith Community Church of Santa Ana, and became more involved with it than ever.
Don had his AICD replaced regularly over the years, but in October 2010 he suffered another massive heart attack. So his physicians put in a CRT-D instead (which included a defibrillator). Then in the summer of 2011—while in Atlanta, Georgia, where Bonnie (author of over 30 books) was doing a book signing—he suddenly suffered an shock from his CRT-D. These shocks then continued off and on for months, apparently caused by massive scar tissue left in his heart. So his physicians decided he needed an ablation. Then just before his first ablation in March 2012, he fell and broke a hip. Because heart surgery was scheduled for the next week, hip surgery was out of the question—so his hip healed, but in very hard-to-use way. That was the end of Don’s biking days.
Unfortunately, the electrical shocks from his implanted device continued. So his physicians scheduled a second ablation for him for that October. But just before that day, he fell again—still unsteady on his feet because of his bad hip—and broke three ribs. Fortunately, they healed all right, and the heart surgery went well, too. Indeed, Don never had another shock, at least until the evening he suddenly passed away—February 19, 2014.
He loved the Lord, and never forgot his battlefield promise to serve Him. He loved helping people. He loved sharing God’s Word with them—indeed, on his final day with us, he spent several hours planning next summer’s sermons. And that’s on top of the ones he had already written through Mother’s Day!
And he loved his family. His parents are already deceased, of course. But he will be sorely missed by his wife of fifty-six years, Bonnie, as well as by his three sons and their wives: Robin and Peggy in Virginia, and Chat and Jeanne and Jay and Vikki, who live nearby in Santa Ana. Robin is an Economics professor and much-in-demand lecturer; Chat is a computer expert and pastor of his own church; Jay is a Sheriff’s Deputy and Minister of Music in his father’s church.
Also, he loved his grandsons—Tommy, now graduated from college and working in investments in Atlanta; and Daniel and Andy, both still in college, studying computer animation—and his only granddaughter, Phoebe, a high school student. How wonderful that God kept Don alive for twenty-two years after his first massive heart attack to see all his grandchildren be born and grow, and to be loved by them in return.
Don was also loved by almost everyone else who knew him, including all the members of his church. He was grateful to them all—and especially to his personal physician, Dr. John P. Morey; to his cardiologist, Dr. Mahnaz Behboodikhah (“Dr. B.); to the whole supportive team at the Hoag Heart and Arrhythmia Center; to Dr. Lee Novick, his ophthalmologist (who saw him through cataract surgery); and even to the wonderful pharmacy staff at his local CVS Pharmacy.
God bless you, Don! Have a joyful time Up There with all of God’s family. We look forward to joining you one day and celebrating with you forever!
“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
In loving memory,
Bonnie Compton Hanson