Helen Neeser Hanna
March 11, 2023
Helen Jean Hanna, born April 26, 1931, was the daughter of two Swiss immigrants, Herman and Violet Neeser. She was also the widow of the late James Slater Hanna, Jr., a former Supervisor of Technical Publication at the California Department of Water Resources and a widely respected teacher and consultant on government report writing. Helen was valedictorian of North High in Akron Ohio (1949), received her B.A. from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, summa cum laude (1953), her M.A. at Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio (1954), and a further diploma from the Université de Neuchâtel, Switzerland (1955). She was a member of the American Association of University Women (AAUW). She worked as a teaching assistant in French at U.C. Berkeley (1955–1959), and in the early 1980s she taught French at Brookfield School in Sacramento. She also briefly taught at Sacramento State University. From 1987–1997, Helen was a policy analyst and writer for the California School Boards Association. She was a member of her local Gourmet Couples group in Sacramento, and she wrote and self-published a cookbook for young adults, <i>How to Boil Water</i>, which received national attention when it was featured in the Sunday <i>Parade Magazine</i> in newspapers across the country. Following her retirement, Helen held a leadership role within a conversational French group through the Renaissance Society. She was blessed to have beloved, loyal friends, with whom she enjoyed regularly playing Scrabble. She was a lifelong activist, and was among those who worked to get the Rancho Seco nuclear power plant shut down. She shared her environmentalist perspective over the years in the local community with school children through a “Friends of the Garden” flannel board presentation that stressed the importance of an organic approach toward food production. An anti-war, progressive liberal, she was always generous, and felt that it was more important to be kind than funny. She often commented that, “Sometimes life gets so complicated,” which was understandable over the last four years of her life as she suffered from Alzheimer’s. A loving mother, she is survived by three independent-minded, creative sons: Jared Jordan, Roger Hanna, and Jonathan Hanna; two daughter-in-laws: Zhanna Gurvich and Blake Hanna; and three grandchildren: Mikey Clinton, Slater Hanna, and Piper Gurvich.