In Memoriam -- Alexandra Hansen (wife of Christian Hansen, MD)
Alexandra Marshall Cole Hansen, 78, Devoted Wife and Mother,
Grandmother, Beloved Friend
Alexandra Marshall Cole Hansen, retired Assistant to the Headmaster
at Solebury School, died Sunday morning [May 2012] at her home in New Hope,
PA, from complications related to a traumatic brain injury. She was 78.
"Alix", as she liked to be called, was born in Trenton, NJ on
February 24, 1934 and lived for a
brief time in Titusville, NJ until
settling in New Hope with her parents and two sisters. She attended
the local public schools before graduating from Solebury School in 1951. In
1954, she earned an associates degree from Drexel Institute of Technology
(today’s Drexel University).
After Drexel, Alix worked as assistant to the medical director at
Hunterdon Medical Center, Flemington, NJ, where in 1957 she met her husband,
Chris Hansen, a medical student in pediatrics. Married the next year, the
couple soon embarked on a protracted medical odyssey that took their young
and growing family from the White Mountains of the Apache Indian Reservation
in Arizona; to a stint with the Peace Corps in Ankara, Turkey; to the Sioux
Indian Reservation near Aberdeen, SD; to Boston, MA; Mound Bayou, MS; and
later to London, England; al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia; and Doha, Qatar. Alix,
Chris and their four children finally settled in New Hope in 1969.
To uproot a young family once or twice in a lifetime can be
difficult, as many Americans know. To uproot a family virtually every other
year for a decade by moving to underprivileged communities and foreign
countries could have been devastating had it not been for Alix’s stamina,
courage, curiosity, and
resourcefulness. People often asked her, “What are you doing following that
mad medicine man from god-forsaken place to place?” But Alix wasn’t simply
following Chris; the couple went together, the kids in tow, and the world
(and perhaps the family) is better for it.
Alix had many virtues, but none more striking and more appreciated
than her hospitality (“friendship to strangers” in Greek). Though often a
stranger herself, Alix opened her door to people of every commitment, color,
and creed. It wasn’t that she was unjudgmental; her generosity simply
exceeded her critical tendencies. She was a knowing and munificent,
cosmopolitan and ecumenical host. Family photographs abound of motley
collections of merry makers, young and old, wining and dining in New Hope
and Turkey and Mississippi and Arizona and South Dakota and London and, yes,
al-Khobar and Doha (with wine she and her friends made in the bathtub).
Chris famously liked toys, but so did Alix—wind ups and racing cars
and electric trains and model airplanes and Estes rockets, to name a few.
She also liked to cook, was good at it, and passed on that love to her
children and grandchildren, some of whose fondest memories are of baking
cakes and making jam with “Gammy” in Maine. Alix loved breakfast, and was an
expert in every variation of eggs, often choosing from her favorite egg cups
for soft-boiled eggs.
Alix also loved children’s books and soccer, and reading to her
grandchildren and attending their games, plays, and performances.
Comfortable amid scarcity, she loved the highlife, spending lavishly when
she could—which wasn’t often—and dining at some of the world’s finest
restaurants. She knit beautiful sweaters,
appreciated art, and
folk art and adornments from her and Chris's worldly travels.
Refined in manners, she had a tart tongue and great sense of humor.
She also had a fierce temper, which she attributed to her father. She loved
the outdoors and particularly gardening, another inherited characteristic,
and she thought nothing of transporting the treasures of the Bucks County
woods to her children in New York City or Boston.
Alix died as she lived, surrounded by family and friends, including
a group of West African home health aids who recognized even in a diminished
Alix what others always treasured: a tender, abundant, and open heart.
Together, hands held and nearly in unison, yet one more multicultural
collection of loved ones sang Alix out—“Higher Ground” and “Amazing
Grace”—an apt tribute.
Alix is survived by her children, Max, Amy, Jonathan, and
Nathaniel; their spouses Andrea Kurman Hansen, Mark Canright, Anne Hansen,
and Shunyi Wu; her grand children, Oliver, Rebecca, Julian, and Nathalie,
her sister Annsi Stephano, and many devoted nephews, nieces, and second
A memorial service will be held for Alix at St. Philips Church, 10
Chapel Rd, New Hope, PA on Saturday, June 9, 2012 at 2pm. Donations are
requested in lieu of flowers to the American Friends Service Committee,
Partners in Health or the National Audubon Society.
--Obituary supplied by Alix's daughter, Amy Hansen