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Arbor Day tree planting honors Hansen

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Former Police Chief Ken Hansen and his wife Mary Jean watch as 3rd grade students from South Elementary scoop handfuls of dirt onto a tree at the West Fargo Arbor Day celebration Friday afternoon at West Fargo City Hall. Carrie Snyder / Forum Communications Co.2 / 2

It seemed like old home week Friday, May 13, as Ken Hansen returned to his former "longtime roots" at the West Fargo Police Department as the guest of honor for the annual Arbor Day celebration that saw a stately Linden tree planted on his behalf.

And making the occasion even more significant was the fact that it was Hansen's 71st birthday.

He and his wife, Mary Jean, who observed their 47th wedding anniversary recently, are longtime West Fargo residents moving to the community in 1971.

Hansen served 21 years with the West Fargo Police Department, starting out as assistant chief in 1973, before being named chief three years later and serving until 1994, when a stroke dictated his retirement.

Since that time he has managed to rebound and do well, keeping busy with some of his favorite things that includes an avid woodcarving hobby accented by longtime membership in the Red River Valley Woodcarvers Club, coffee and visiting with the

neighbors, riding his scooter, and "bugging" Mary Jean or vice versa as he jokingly puts it.

Mary Jean retired last year after 25 years at South Elementary School. Capitalizing on her newfound time she enjoys spending as much of it as possible outdoors gardening in what many would call a prize yard, with Ken often keeping her company not too far away.

Hansen said it is a distinct privilege to be recognized during Arbor Day. "It was quite an honor when Yvette (Gehrke, city forester) called and asked me. I don't know how it all happened, but it's great. I guess it means they haven't forgotten about me.

Hansen noted that he picked the Linden tree for the occasion because "They are just a nice tree and really pretty when they grow up."

Family and friends also savored the occasion. Ken's wife, Mary Jean, was in attendance, as were their sons, Terry and his wife, Suzi, and their two children, Emily, a member of Mrs. Lund's third grade class from South Elementary, who recited poetry and sang happy birthday, and Sofia, a fifth grader at South. Second son, Tony and his two boys, Ryan and Tanner were also on hand, but his wife, Brenda, and other son, Jamie, were unable to attend.

Ken's sister, Almira Klein from Valley City, also joined in the festivities along with a passel of friends, many of whom had worked or were associated with Hansen while he was still at the police department.

When the time came for audience response, Detective/Sergeant Greg Warren who was hired into the department many years ago by Ken, described their first years together as "pretty wild and lean. There was a lot of growth going on just like today. I spent a lot of time with Ken, he was a good guy who was always ready to sit down and listen. He always wanted to hear the full story."

Anther friend and fellow employee Helen Crawford, who worked with Ken several years before retiring in 1986, commended the limited staff at the start of their careers, also noting the ongoing growth and pointing out that the department "was a good place to work."

The program also included an introduction from Dave Janssen, chairman of the Urban Forestry Committee, sponsoring the event; an Arbor Day proclamation from West Fargo Mayor Rich Mattern; Tree City USA designation by Sharon Bartels of the N.D. Forest Service; and refreshments provided by the urban forestry committee that included a special birthday cake for Ken.