Baldy Hansen dies at 90

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 24, 2000

If you didn’t know Baldy, chances are you heard about him.

Wednesday, May 24, 2000

If you didn’t know Baldy, chances are you heard about him.

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One of Austin’s originals: Charles R. "Baldy" Hansen died Monday at the age of 90.

If he is eulogized as anything but "Baldy," offense could be taken.

A law was passed by the Minnesota Legislature formally allowing Hansen to be called by his nickname "Baldy" just as he wrote it when filing for office and just as the election notices appeared.

Two of his daughters, Michael Bednar and Iris Hansen, remember him as an "exceptional father." Both were with their father to his end Monday.

"He always wanted us to stand up for what we believed," Bednar said. "He never used foul language, quit smoking cigars when the price went up to 35 cents, enjoyed his scotch and was a gourmet cook.

"Fishing was his favorite hobby and he fished all over the world, fresh water and sea water, and James Cash Penney was one of his fishing friends," she said. "He used to get mail that was addressed just ‘Baldy, Minnesota.’ He was a one of a kind man."

Where does one begin to write about this man? There are so many facets of his life. For instance, he was a businessman and a banker, Austin City Council member and mayor, state senator and newspaper columnist.

His file at the Austin Daily Herald is one of the "fattest" of any public figure.

Until Russell Harding surpassed him, Hansen was the dean of Austin Daily Herald columnists.

His weekly column, "Here’s Baldy Talkin’," appeared once a week on Page 2 of the Austin Daily Herald.

Admittedly, he paid for the space to run his column, making it possibly the first "advertorial," but he was solely responsible for its contents, just like any other columnist, and with good reason, too.

Before ill health forced him to stop, he wrote a column addressed to graduates: "Welcome graduates from our Austin area school system. Are you finding jobs in Austin? Of course, you aren’t and you won’t as long as our anti-business City Council and the spot-zoning committee have their way?"

If Baldy could only see the Austin City Council in action today?

Whatever he did, he did with flair.

He purchased Rose Creek State Bank and then opened a branch of the bank in Austin. He also owned Farmers State Bank of Lyle.

What kind of banker was he?

An Austin woman who worked at the bank was allowed to plead guilty to embezzling $140 from the bank in 1976. In return, five other counts of embezzling a total of $33,465 between May 1972 and February 1976 were ordered dismissed in a plea bargain.

Hansen issued a news release in which he criticized the U.S. Attorney General.

"It is no wonder our crime rate is rising at such an alarming rate when a thief steals thousands and thousands of dollars and is let off with a slap on the wrist because it is too much trouble for the U.S. attorney’s office to prosecute," Hansen was quoted as saying.

When the Austin Daily Herald charged him with being against new industry, the Herald’s own columnist, Hansen, didn’t mince words.

"In the usual garbling of the facts, the Austin Daily Herald charges me with being against new industry for Austin.

And, he used to have a radio show on former station KQAQ in Austin to share his opinions.

When his beloved first wife, Margaret, died of suicide after she was released from the Rochester State Hospital, Hansen turned the private tragedy into a public spectacle.

Then a state senator, he proposed legislation on the floor of the Minnesota Senate to require hearings and a review board process, involving a state hospital patient’s relatives before release could be allowed. Today, that is law.

His 10 years in the Minnesota Senate alone are filled with more headlines than anyone else garners in a lifetime of public service.

He drove a red, white and blue van for many years, wore a wide-brimmed hat and stared out from under the brim with clear blue eyes.

Shyness and Baldy were never mentioned in the same sentence.

"He always took the side of the little guy or underdog," said Bednar, who recalled her father often said, "I had the best life of anyone."

"I think he would like to be remembered as a man who was fair and a man of his word," she said. "Dad was so very special to me."

Another daughter, Iris Hansen, said she would like her father to be remembered as "fearless."

"He wasn’t afraid of tackling any issue and he also had a tremendous compassion for people with disabilities," she said.

Former Austin Daily Herald columnist Roger Larson, now deceased, wrote a feature entitled "People Make A Difference."

"Baldy Hansen has never been accused of not speaking his mind. That’s fine with him," Larson began.

Then, the columnist quoted Hansen’s explanation for his (Baldy’s) outspokenness.

"I never want anyone to say ‘I wonder what he’s thinking,’" Larson quoted Hansen as saying. "They’re not going to say that about me."