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updated: 8/12/2014 7:36 PM

Former Elgin, South Elgin police chief dies at 88

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  • James A. Hansen, who died Sunday at age 88, served as police chief in Elgin and South Elgin. He also loved jazz, Notre Dame football and his family.

      James A. Hansen, who died Sunday at age 88, served as police chief in Elgin and South Elgin. He also loved jazz, Notre Dame football and his family.
    courtesy of Art Hickman

  • James A. Hansen, formerly of Elgin, was the first to receive a degree from St. Edward Central Catholic High School in the school's first graduating class in 1944. He served in the U.S. Army in World War II, then joined the Elgin Police Department.

      James A. Hansen, formerly of Elgin, was the first to receive a degree from St. Edward Central Catholic High School in the school's first graduating class in 1944. He served in the U.S. Army in World War II, then joined the Elgin Police Department.

 
 

James A. Hansen had four deep loves in his life -- his family, Notre Dame football, jazz music and police work.

The former police chief in Elgin and South Elgin, who died Sunday at age 88, always made others feel at ease despite towering at 6 feet 6 inches, said his daughter Barbara Mozina of St. Charles.

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"He was very, very outgoing. Very much a people person," Mozina said. "I don't think I could ever go anywhere that he didn't run into somebody he knew."

Hansen lived in Elgin since age 4 and spent the past five years at a rehabilitation center in South Elgin. He died of pneumonia brought on by complications from Parkinson's disease, his daughter said.

He joined the Elgin Police Department in the late 1940s and implemented several modernizing changes after being appointed chief in 1965, Elgin Police Cmdr. Glenn Theriault said.

He created the position of safety education director, the modern equivalent of school liaison officers, transitioned to all-motorized patrols, and organized the department into three divisions -- patrol, administration and investigations, Theriault said.

"He really made the department look like it does today," he said.

After retiring from Elgin, he went on to serve as police chief in South Elgin from 1971 to 1977.

Hansen was born in Indiana in 1926 and served with the U.S. Army in World War II. He spent six months in a hospital in England after being injured while crossing the Rhine river in Germany, Mozina said.

"They were bombed, and he was the only survivor of his platoon," she said. "His legs were full of shrapnel."

He joined the police force at the suggestion of a friend, and it turned out to be a perfect fit, she said. "He just really happened onto something that he happened to love," she said.

He met future wife, Ruth M. Schildmeyer, at the Greyhound bus station in Elgin when he was a beat cop and she worked at the lunch counter, Mozina said.

After retiring from police work, he worked for about a decade with his son James at Priority One Delivery Services in South Elgin. He quit to care for his wife, who died from cancer in 1987.

From then on, his life was all about family, as he attended his grandchildren's every volleyball game and Christmas play, Mozina said. "He just enjoyed his retirement," she said.

He instilled his passion for Notre Dame in his children and loved the music of jazz pianist and composer Stan Kenton.

He was devoted to St. Edward Central Catholic High School, where he spoke in 1994 in occasion of the 50th anniversary of his graduation, the school's first.

Hansen was bestowed the school's first degree, according to the custom of going from tallest to shortest, his daughter said.

"He always kept close ties to St. Ed's," she said.

Hansen had two more children, Margaret "Meg" Hickman of Carpentersville and James Hansen of Geneva; seven grandchildren; six great grandchildren; and a sister in Sacramento, Calif.

Funeral services will be held at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Laird Family Funeral Services, 310 S. State St., Elgin. Visitation will be held there from 3 to 9 p.m.

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