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Fire Department, Lodi community say their good-byes to Capt. Joe Hansen

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Posted: Friday, May 11, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 9:43 am, Fri May 11, 2012.

Lodi Fire Capt. Joe Hansen was a man who liked to say "OK."

Hundreds of family and friends gathered at First Baptist Church to say their final good-byes to a man who served for nearly three decades in local fire services. Amid the many tears that were shed as people remembered Hansen as a kind, giving man, there were also moments of laughter where stories reflected how much of a go-getter Hansen was.

Whether it was learning how to kayak or planning a last-minute family meal with friends, if Hansen was asked to help out, the answer was always the same: "OK," he would say with a smile.

Hansen, a 25-year veteran of the Lodi Fire Department, was killed in a motorcycle accident on May 4. According to a California Highway Patrol collision report, Hansen hit a snow marker and was thrown from his bike. He suffered fatal injuries as a result of the crash, the report stated.

The sanctuary at the church was packed as stories of Hansen's good humor and gentle demeanor were told.

Fire Chief Larry Rooney, who was the first of the fire department to speak, said he felt he was the least-deserving person to speak on Hansen's behalf because he had only known him five months.

However, Rooney said he was not only deeply saddened by the loss of a comrade, he was also distraught because he was possibly the only person in the department who had not received one of Hansen's famous shoulder rubs.

Hansen was known for approaching his peers who were stiff and sore after fighting a fire and rubbing their shoulders to help them calm down.

"Joe was a true professional," Rooney said. "He made the workplace better simply by being in it."

The department's three remaining fire captains — Todd Luke, Pete Iturraran and Tim Thalken — all spoke of memories they and others shared of Hansen.

They recalled how it was typical of Hansen to approach someone, not knowing who they were, extending his hand and saying "Hi, I'm Joe."

"He probably had more true friends than anyone," Luke said. "If you talked to him for even a minute, you were a friend."

Thalken, through tears, described how he knew the two men were going to be good friends when he discovered soon after they joined the Woodbridge Fire Department that they drove the exact same car — a 1978 Mazda GLC.

Hansen's son, Alex Hansen, who sat next to his mother and comforted her throughout the service, said he was proud to be his father's son and that he admired Hansen's ability to always remain positive.

"He lives on for all of us," Alex Hansen said. "Remember, never pass up an opportunity to tell (parents) 'I love you.'"

Contact reporter Katie Nelson at katien@lodinews.com.

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