A Veteran, Father, Husband, Brother, and Hero
By: John Cuddy – May, 2022
On April 16th of this year, a reunion was held on the shore of Rock Pond in Georgetown, Massachusetts.
Family and friends gathered to remember a Haverhill Veteran, Frederick “Buddy” Hansen, a husband, brother, and dad, who drowned in this pond while saving the lives of two young boys, on April 16, 1972 – exactly fifty years ago. There were many laughs and tears as memories were shared, and the love could be felt as this great man was remembered.
Fishing on Rock Pond, in a small 10’ aluminum boat, were Scott Hansen, age 12, and his friends John Shirling, age 9, and Paul Noel, age 11, along with Scott’s dad 38-year-old Buddy Hansen, Jr. of Haverhill, Massachusetts. Buddy was a Haverhill Highway Department employee and a US Navy Veteran. At around noontime, a much larger motorboat passed 50’ in front of them, leaving a large wake.
According to several witnesses at the site of the boating accident, the wake of the larger motor-powered boat, swamped the smaller craft. These bystanders, many who assisted with the rescue of the boys, later told first responders, that while Scott was able to swim ashore, the two younger boys were struggling, and didn’t know how to swim. Buddy lifted the boys from the water and pushed them forward again and again, pushing them towards shore.
There was a father and son on the shore trying to help the boys to safety, but it was homeowner Carol Rochefort who saw the boat starting to swamp from her window and came to aid in the rescue. She went into the water with life jackets and helped the boys to shore. She tried to save Buddy, but it was too late. Georgetown Police Sgt. John Dowdy attempted to locate and assist Buddy in the frigid water.
Carol joined the family on April 16th to remember and meet the extended family and friends of Buddy. After fifty years she got to hug one of the boys she helped rescue, Paul Noel. She had previously welcomed Scott into her home to talk about that day and see the man he had become. Many of the witnesses insisted, incorrectly, that there had been four youths in the boat with Buddy. The three boys cleared this error up quickly, shifting the focus on the search for Buddy. His body was found by Haverhill Fire Department Divers in the cold lake about an hour later.
I met with Buddy’s son, Scott, at Al’s Diner in Methuen, Massachusetts for breakfast early one morning this month, along with Buddy’s brother, and Scott’s uncle, Bob, also a US Navy veteran. Bob served on the USS Charles Roan DD 853 as a US Navy Postal Clerk. Both men vividly remember their part in the day’s event. Their testimony to Buddy’s heroism on that day moved me, and with Memorial Day this month, I thought it fitting to write this story, and give the citizens of the Merrimack Valley an opportunity to remember and reflect on the life of a great man.
Sharing in his own words about his brother, and his brother’s faith, Bob talked about the events of April 16, 1972. More importantly, Bob talked about what kind of brother, husband and father Buddy was.
“I had joined the Knights of Columbus, when a Council was formed in Georgetown, and had discussed it with Buddy. After a while he thought that he would like to become a Knight, and I told him it was not that easy. I went on to explain the different requirements, and he decide he could handle it. I told him he would have to brush up on his religion because he may be quizzed on it. He went at it with gusto, so much so, that one day while at work on his job with the city, he parked his truck off on a side road out of sight, or he thought he was out of sight, to do some studying.
After a while, there was a knock on his window, and it was his boss. After being told how bad (studying on the job) was, and that he could be fired, his supervisor asked Buddy what was so important to be sitting reading in his truck instead of working. Buddy said that you (his boss) were not going to believe this, but I am studying my Catechism. Then, his boss asked, “why are you doing that.”
He told him he was joining the Knights of Columbus. Thankfully, his boss was a Knight as well and understood. Bob also told of how his son Eric, Buddy’s godson, was being babysat by Buddy and his wife Barbara the night before the accident. When I picked him up, on Sunday morning, Eric was crying because Uncle Buddy wouldn’t take him fishing. Thankfully, Buddy thought his nephew was too young for the fishing trip! Eric was four years old.
Buddy’s son Scott’s reflections on his dad’s life were equally moving, “Dad loved to take me fishing, we had great family cookouts, and I helped him make the Santa sleigh that was then used in the Haverhill Santa parade.”
A US Navy Veteran, Frederick Hansen, spent much of his career at Naval Air Station (NAS) Glynco, in Brunswick, Georgia, located in Glynn County.
Named NAS Glynco as an abbreviation of Glynn County, Georgia, it was initially constructed as an operational base for lighter-than-air airships, more commonly known as blimps. Frederick’s brother Bob recalled that his brother worked with the airships while assigned to the base during his military service after graduating from Haverhill Trade School in 1953.
Buddy was an employee of the Highway Department of the City of Haverhill, and his funeral procession stretched for blocks, with hundreds lining the streets as well. He was a Haverhill native, a son, a husband, a father of two, besides his sons, he has a daughter Pamela. Buddy was a member of the Haverhill American Veterans, also known as the AMVETS, he was a Knight of Columbus, with the order’s Georgetown Council 6064, and was a parishioner of St. James Parish located in Haverhill.
While I never met Buddy, and only spent a short time with Bob and Scott over breakfast, Buddy Hansen is exactly the kind of American that we created Memorial Day for, a Veteran, a brother, a husband, a dad, and a hero. Bob and Scott told me that Buddy’s life centered around his community and family, and it is why we remember him, and those like him, on Memorial Day!
Writing this article in May, gives me a chance to remind all Americans, what our nation’s patriotic holidays are all about, especially Memorial Day. Please remind the young Americans in your life that Armed Forces Day is Saturday, May 21st, for those currently serving on active duty, defending our nation around the globe. Memorial Day, Monday, May 30th, is set aside exclusively to honor those men and women who have died in military service to the nation, although many also remember our loved ones, who are no longer among us.
Veteran’s Day is Friday, November 11th, honoring all our nation’s veterans. Also, please remember our everyday heroes, this year, Father’s Day is Sunday June 19th!
The Dracut American Legion asks all World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War Veterans, to call (603) 518-5368 and sign up for an Honor Flight to the Memorials in Washington, D.C.! Veterans of all eras are asked to go the American Legion’s website www.legion.org, and join the American Legion, working with Congress, preserving our Veteran’s Benefits for future generations.
John Cuddy served in the US Navy’s Construction Battalions (also known as the Seabees). After retiring from the US Navy, he earned a bachelor’s in history and a master’s in economics from the University of Massachusetts on the Lowell Campus. He has been employed in Logistics at FedEx for the last 25 years. If you know a World War II, Korean War, or Vietnam War, Veteran who would like their story told, please email him at John.Cuddy@Yahoo.com ◊