"Oral Ambassador of Chess", Jerry Hanken, Passes Away

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Rest in Peace – Jerry Hanken (1934-2009)

Jerry Hanken, chess journalist, promoter and Life Master, passed away on October 1st, 2009 in Los Angeles at the age of 74.  He leaves behind a saddened chess community.  Jerry was an Original Life Master and Chess Life columnist.  He is survived by his former wife, Barbara, and their children, Andrea and Dan.

Memorial Service

A memorial service for journalist, promoter and life master Jerry Hanken will be held on October 25th in Pasadena, California. (See details below)

Sunday, 3pm, October 25, 2009
Church of Truth
690 E. Orange Grove Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91104

Donations for the service and any questions can be sent to Barbara Hanken at 5200 Shearin, Los Angeles, CA 90041; bshanken@yahoo.com

Many in the chess community have shared their thoughts on the USCF’s websiteClick Here to Read More…

Below you will find an article written by U.S. Chess Trust’s Chairman Emeritus & Trustee, Harold Dondis with Patrick Wolff for the Boston Globe, in memory of Jerry Hanken.

Our thoughts are with his family. May he rest in peace.

Feel free to share your thoughts and messages with the chess community by commenting on our site.



Chess Notes
By Harold Dondis and Patrick Wolff

The Boston Globe, www.boston.com

News has come to us via California that Jerry Hanken, very ill, was put on a ventilator and that his life ebbed away on Oct. 1. He was 74. Hanken has been one of the dominating personalities of the American chess scene for decades. He has been a politician, a battler, a reporter of great note, and to possibly sum it up, a man larger than life.

Hanken was a former probation officer and also an English teacher. He was elected to the board of the US Chess Federation (USCF) for many years, and his battles there were as unstinting and articulate as one could imagine. Whether or not such battles were good for the USCF is now beside the point. Hanken was a dedicated member of the board, and he was the foremost translator of chess for chess fans. He was a life master and could always be found at major tournaments. He was the clear choice to write reports on the tournaments as they occurred. In this function, he was the center of the tournament’s energy, always providing effulgent reports on the personalities and the happenings in the tourney. He did not hesitate to write about himself, but always with a high humor for which there were no peers in this game.

As we recall, Hanken was the center of a controlling majority on the board in 1991-1993, in an interlude of no president in office between the tenures of Maxim Dlugy and Dennis Barry. It was in the latter’s term that the debates at the USCF executive board virtually exploded. Hanken was a supporter of the right to debate OMOV (One Man One Vote for members in elections), the resolution that was adopted providing for direct election of the executive board. Hanken’s debates made Cicero sound like a soft-spoken introvert. He bawled oratorical threats and even disrobed in part to emphasize his position.

It was sad to see Hanken appearing of late in a wheelchair, but still reporting to his public with optimism and piquant comments. It was even sadder to hear that his health had declined, and that he was determined not to return to a nursing home, which he inimitably described as Dickensian. He announced that if he was ever sent back he would get a second opinion from Doctor Kevorkian, and he was finally put on a ventilator for his last days. Hanken recently captained the Journalists of America, and received their awards as humorist and journalist of the year. He could quote poetry not only by the yard but also by the mile. He knew Stephen Vincent Benét’s long epic poem “John Brown’s Body’’ by heart, and would emit it with forensic accomplishment at the slightest request. Recently he took time out to send us a disc, in which he recited poetry of Robert Frost, T.S. Eliot, Edwin Arlington Robinson, and Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Jerry Hanken, the Oral Ambassador of Chess, has now left the stage.

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