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Birthday cards abound for Cedar Rapids veteran after family starts online effort

An image of Barney Hanson, 92, of Cedar Rapids, as he sits in front of a wall covered in pictures and medals from his time serving in WWII. (Courtesy: Zach Stewart)
An image of Barney Hanson, 92, of Cedar Rapids, as he sits in front of a wall covered in pictures and medals from his time serving in WWII. (Courtesy: Zach Stewart)(KCRG)
Published: Feb. 6, 2019 at 10:37 PM CST
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It hasn't even been a week, but already an eastern Iowa veteran's mailbox is overflowing with well-wishes and birthday cards. That's after his family started an online campaign to show him how much he's appreciated before his 93rd birthday.

Amy Stewart, who lives in Fairfax, created the effort, last Thursday. She wanted to fill her father’s mailbox with thank-you cards by his February 25 birthday. Stewart said her dad, Barney Hanson, 92, could really use the support.

The World War II Navy veteran lost his wife of 62 years to pancreatic cancer, two years ago. Stewart said Hanson is now spending many of his days alone, filling the hours with trips to thrift shops to buy broken clocks which he then repairs.

“Dad has outlived many of his friends and family, including all nine of his siblings,” Stewart said in an online post to Facebook. “The house is much quieter now and the days are long, but he stays active, has a positive attitude, and maintains his unflappable sense of humor.”

In fewer than seven days, Hanson has received more than 100 cards-- some coming from as far away as Portland. Others were sent by well-known Hawkeyes like Tom Brands.

"Our goal was 93 cards," Stewart said. "A card for each year. Here it is and he's already gotten 103 cards."

Stewart said the cards didn’t need to be elaborate. Sending some kind words was enough.

“You could call this request a Happy Birthday wish or a simple ‘Thank You’ for your service, but we know that any kind gesture would brighten the day of this veteran sailor, father of five, grandfather, and great grandfather that we love so dearly,” Stewart wrote.

Hanson’s daughter got the idea after seeing a similar effort make national news. Sue Morse, the daughter of another WWII veteran, Duane Sherman, 96, living in California, was able to collect around 60,000 cards last year for her father’s December birthday.

“Every card, every well-wish he can get will brighten his day,” Stewart said. “He would get a kick out of it.”

Stewart said her father joined the Navy at the age of 17, getting a required signature from his grandmother to enlist. Hanson then served as a 3rd Class Machinist’s Mate on the battleship U.S.S. Mississippi.

“Dad took part in nearly every battle in the Pacific Theatre including the Battle of Lingayen Gulf where the ship took a near-fatal blow from a kamikaze attack as well as during the amphibious assault on Okinawa that destroyed Shuri Castle,” Stewart said. “He also witnessed the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945.”

Cards and well-wishes can be sent to the address below:

Barney Hanson

C/O Greg Stewart

PO Box 8606

Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52408-8606

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