He was born May 23, 1926 in Jersey City, New Jersey, to Charles and Katherine Hansen and was raised in Westfield, New Jersey where he graduated Westfield Senior High School when he just turned 16. He was Valedictorian and compiled an academic record unsurpassed for decades. He won the prestigious Westinghouse Prize, and was awarded scholarships to a number of universities. Because of the war, he enrolled instead in the U.S. Navy’s V-12 program for promising math and science students. The Navy sent him first to MIT, and then to the University of Michigan, from which he graduated with honors in 1946, at age 19. He then served on active duty as an Ensign (later Lieutenant, Junior Grade) with the Navy on board the cruiser USS Columbia. Following his honorable discharge, he worked as an Engineer for the Westinghouse Electric Corporation in Pittsburgh, where he developed flow meters and was awarded a U.S. Patent for his invention. He continued his education, under the GI Bill, at his beloved University of Michigan, this time in the Law School. To help support his studies, he taught Engineering at Michigan to undergraduates, many of whom were veterans years older than him. Following his graduation from the Law School in 1950 (Law Review, Order of the Coif), he took up a position as an associate attorney at the Mudge, Stern, Williams, and Tucker firm in New York. After several years of private practice, he decided to enter the corporate world, first as labor counsel to Sylvania Electric Products. In that job he traveled the east coast, trying labor cases in front of arbitrators. He never lost a case. In 1961 he was recruited to the Trane Company in La Crosse, Wisconsin, as Assistant General Counsel. At Trane he rose to General Counsel and then to Executive Vice-President, International. As much as he loved the law, his passion was business, and he relished the challenge of turning around companies that were not achieving good results. He made Trane’s international business a great success, with profitable subsidiaries and joint ventures around the world. In 1972 he left Trane, and a year later took on another set of challenges at Cutler-Hammer, International, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Cutler-Hammer, like Trane, had an underperforming international business. Traveling the world tirelessly, building and motivating his team, he quickly turned the business around. In recognition of his achievements he was made one of three members of the Office of Chief Executive at Cutler-Hammer. In 1979 Cutler-Hammer was acquired by Eaton International, and he returned to the law as Vice-President and General Counsel of Emerson Electric Company, in St Louis, Missouri. He transformed Emerson’s Law Department, introduced dramatic changes to the way Emerson evaluated and litigated cases, and became active in bar activities in order to bring about significant changes in corporate law and governance. In this as in everything else he did, he was energetic, focused and highly successful. After retiring from Emerson in 1989, he joined the firm of Bryan, Cave, McPheeters and McRoberts, in St Louis, as a partner. He practiced with Bryan Cave for almost 30 years, representing clients around the country on corporate issues, and published (with his partner Don G. Lents) the leading treatise on Missouri Corporate law, which he faithfully improved and updated through 11 editions.
In 1953 he married Carolyn Patricia Smith, and they had more than 60 years of great happiness together, until her death in 2014. Their children Mark and Melissa were born in 1956 and 1959 respectively.
Charles Hansen was far more than the sum of his resume. His talents were remarkable and varied. From the German he spoke fluently and polished diligently, to the fine furniture he crafted from the cherry wood of his favorite place, Door County, Wisconsin; to the prodigious reading of books in all fields; to his avid golf and tennis, his sunfish sailing (singlehandedly launching and captaining the boat from the Lake Michigan shore well into his 70s); to his full throated singing at church; to his ability to solve almost any problem; he was a force of nature whose like will not be seen again soon.
Charles is survived by children Mark of Washington, D.C., and Melissa of Espanola, New Mexico, and grandchildren Elisabeth Hansen of San Francisco, California, Caroline Hansen of New York, New York, and Charles Hansen of Lewiston, Maine.
There will be a Memorial Service at The First Congregational Church of St. Louis, 6501 Wydown Blvd., Clayton, MO 63105 on Saturday, November 24 at 1:00 pm; reception to follow at the church. The Memorial Service will be live streamed at: https://www.facebook.com/FirstCongregationalUCC. Anyone wishing to send gifts of remembrance should send them to Lydia’s House, P.O. Box 2722. Saint Louis, MO 63116.
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