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It is with a heavy heart that I write about the passing of my father, Richard Hannes, an intelligent, playful, warm soul that loved his family, enjoyed the company of his friends, appreciated a spirited debate and dazzled academically.
A self-proclaimed royal smart person, he was an actual rocket scientist, holding a PhD in mathematics from the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University, a master’s degree in computer science and a master’s degree in physics.
Rich began his professional career as a professor at the University of Hartford in the 1970’s before contributing his intelligence working on multiple foundational projects that fostered our nations national defense in the 1980’s and 1990’s as a civilian computer scientist at United Technologies Norden Systems and later on at Sikorsky Aircraft before concluding his career at Verizon Wireless.
His brilliant brain never ceased to dazzle his peers and colleagues. To see him in action was to realize that he had an intellectual super power. He could skim a new computer programming book over a weekend, re-read it over a week’s time and apply the subject as if he were well seasoned in the subject that he had just picked up. As an adult I witnessed with wonder my father in action as I could never master the subjects that he could pick up in a week and apply immediately.
As down to Earth as one comes, he rarely went by Dr. He was Rich and he was dad. In his youth he felt at home on a basketball court, mastering a hook shot and shooting with both hands. He has a love for HIS Knicks of 1969 and 1973 and that glory of the past seeded a belief that each new season would be a turnaround season (not so much the Jets). At home at Yankee Stadium old and new, he was readily recognizable wearing his number 7 aging into the mantle of the senior bomber at the stadium playing witness to some of the great games of the turn of the century dynasty Yankees with his son, David.
Richard loved reading, with an affinity for science fiction novels, a fondness that he passed on to his daughter, Sheri. He was a fan of the original Star Trek from the time of its debut and enjoyed a good sci-fi adventure. He was a movie enthusiast with an appreciation for new technologies that matched his interest. With every new generation of large screen TV he wanted one and would come to own one.
Rich was cultured; he enjoyed dining out with his wife, Janie, of 52 years, and appreciated music from the Beetles to the Doors to folk musicians the 1960’s that epitomized his young adulthood. He enjoyed live concerts of the Levitt Pavilion with Janie and Barry, his friend of decades, and would frequent the summer plays performed at the Playhouse in Westport Connecticut, where his resided from 1979 until 2018. It was here where he raised their two children, Sheri Hannes Norton and David Hannes to adulthood.
A family man at his core he welcomed back his family both immediate and extended hosting Passover and Thanksgiving reunions annually for 40 years. His favorite days were those the house was full again with the return of his family; Sheri and her husband Tad Norton, grandchildren Erin and Jessie and later on David with his wife Shawn Whitney, grandchildren, Jacob and Jenny.
Rich’s story would not be complete if one were not to mentioned that he struggled with his health in his later years, diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at the outset of the millennium, it would be a shadow that followed him for the duration of his later life. He fought the disease with a brave front, toured the world with his wife while he had the physical capacity to travel. Even as the disease continued to stake claim to his body, his heart continued to evolve into the soft warm soul we would come to know him for. He loved his family, appreciated his friends and spoke his mind right up until the end.
One of the smartest people I have ever met, Richard Hannes, you’ve been my father, my friend and my go-to life advisor at every phase of my life. You were the first one I thought to consult with whenever I had a problem in life regardless what the issue may have been. You almost always had the answer. I’ll always be grateful for having you in my life as a father. It’s as if you were hand selected for me. You were my rock. I love you dad. I’ll miss you forever. Your recent suffering has come to an end, may you rest in peace.