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A Pillar of Seminole County

It was a Decatur County resident that gave this description of John Hanna this past week, upon hearing of his death.  I couldn’t have said it better myself.
John Hanna lived all his life in Seminole County, except for his time at Georgia Military College, the University of Georgia and Korea.  The son of one of the early, prominent families of the county, John took on the mantle of leadership early in his life and never shirked his duty.
His first career was at Donalsonville Grain & Elevator, later to become Gold Kist.  He was a competitor in the peanut business when I moved to town as a wet behind the ears 21 year old.  I still remember when one of his customers came into my office to do business for the first time.   I went home so excited, feeling like I might be able to succeed here after all.
John’s second career was as the President of Commercial State Bank.  He operated the bank as he did the peanut company, listening to every concern of his customers and doing what he could to make their life better.
John was much more than a successful businessman to those that knew him.  He was a true Southern Gentleman in the best sense of the word.  He chose to think optimistically about things, believing that we could always do better.
John was like my own father, in that he never met a stranger.  He could meet someone and within minutes they were friends.   He could take a small fish story and make it into a grand tale.  He knew everyone and everyone called him their friend.
Hunting and fishing were part of John’s life, although I always thought they were just another reason for him to be around and enjoy people.  He loved to dance and enjoyed being at a party whether he knew everyone or not.  Besides, it would only take a few minutes before they were all his friends anyway.
Every need in town, whether civic or charitable, would find John not only volunteering but often becoming chairman.  He led by example and people instinctively wanted to follow him.
I have been fortunate to have been part of John’s church family for the past three decades.  The Presbyterian Church seemed empty this week when his regular spot on the second pew on the left side was vacant.  He cooked Sunday morning breakfasts for years and led by example in every way imaginable.  
John Hanna shook my hand as a young competitor and his handshake was just as strong in the last months of his life.  He embraced my wife and spoke each and every Sunday to my children and later to my grandchildren.
When John Hanna stood up to speak, people listened.  I suspect most of them were just like me; they had a great respect for his opinion and knew that he would always shoot them straight.  
The funeral Sunday was a wonderful celebration of a life well lived.  John Hanna lived life to the fullest.  He loved his children and grandchildren, a good cigar, a good story, his community and his friends.  
As was said during his eulogy, “John Hanna was a really, really good man”.    Can we really ever aspire to be more than that?  
Dan Ponder can be reached at

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