A reporter’s final column

Published 4:09 am Saturday, August 25, 2018

(The following was written with help from Marcelle Hanemann’s daughter).

The day before the accident that would change my life utterly and distinctly, I happened to give my four weeks notice to Justin Schuver, my boss and publisher and editor of the Bogalusa Daily News.

My resignation came not from a lack of love for my position but as a result of having become host to what has presented as a progressive primary aphasia, a neurological disorder that has begun to strip from me my ability to process the spoken and written word. The night before it happened, I did not sense anything particularly ominous, never dreaming I was about to lose my husband, my soulmate, my life’s partner of over 43 years.

That evening as I slept, Danny fell. He broke multiple ribs, collapsed a lung and would end up with injuries so severe, he had to be rushed to a hospital in Hammond. Hammond is where I lost him. Hammond is also where I first met him, in the student union of Southeastern Louisiana University. The first time I laid eyes on him, I was so taken by his beauty that I made an uncharacteristically bold move to get him to notice me and borrowed money to buy an apple I didn’t want, moving backwards through the line so he’d see me. It didn’t work. It wasn’t until weeks later that we’d actually meet. A friend at a party introduced him to me and told me to take good care of his friend Danny Hanemann. I have been trying ever since. I was 19 years old at the time.

Danny was the light of my life, the love of my life. He was a man’s man with a poet’s soul. He could build things, grow things, and he was a man of humor and intellect, art and passion. He was my protector and my friend. I remember one beautiful morning, early on in our relationship, as he was watering his pretty plants in his front yard across from the Abita Springs fire station, a drop of water landed on a bud of a white spider plant flower. When the drop hit, the flower opened up all the way as we watched. It was a beautiful and glorious experience to share and came to symbolize the beginning of our long life of loving one another. He was a magical person who mesmerized audiences as he lit up a stage or wove stories or sang and he recited poetry to me and Shakespeare in a honeyed voice. After the accident, never would I hear that sweet, sweet voice again.

In the beginning of our time at the hospital, I had no inkling that his life would be soon cut short. But for seven painful weeks, as I sat next to him in the Surgical ICU, a host of co-morbidity issues took him further and further from me as he fought the battle he would ultimately lose at 7:05 p.m. on Aug. 6. Congestive heart failure, apnea, infections and compromised lungs finally made it impossible for him to regain the ability to breathe on his own. We had to release him. He passed, surrounded by his family. We played for him the soundtrack he loved from Zephirelli’s Romeo and Juliet, we told funny stories about his adventures, we sang to him and held him and thanked him and we gave him permission to let go. After his last breath, we all embraced him in a final hug.

His passing was all about love and it inspired me to remember and to proclaim the fact that we truly are all a part of God. Our nature and purpose is to LOVE and there is no higher accomplishment than to love and be loved. By that measure, Danny was a master and so he left the world as a wildly successful man.

Though his physical life is over, his loving spirit endures. It rolls along with the Louisiana rivers he used to love to fish, it blows through the oaks and magnolias, it surrounds me in the breeze and it will no doubt live on in the laughter of Isabella, our granddaughter who loved to boss him around and will shine in the eyes of his new granddaughter Sophia, who will be born into this world any day now and will help us to carry on the life of loving that her Papa was so gloriously good at.

Note from Marcelle’s daughter, Brook Hanemann:

The column above will be my mother’s last. After decades of writing for you, aphasia has taken away her ability to clearly speak and write, though her intellect and heart remain powerfully intact. She loved you. She loved the city and its workers and administrators, supporters and activists, heritage champions and citizens. She loved to celebrate your community and your accomplishments through the words printed here in black and white.

Her voice will fall silent now, as has my father’s.

Those who knew my mother also know that at the core of her being and her work was a message of love and inclusion and tolerance and empowerment. In her honor and in honor of my father, I ask simply that you carry those messages forward. Keep building. Keep beautifying. Keep honoring what makes your town unique.

Most importantly, keep speaking love into the lives of those you care for. Be relentless and unabashed in your articulation of your affection. Be bold and specific. Compliment the qualities you admire in your neighbors, and never squander an opportunity to speak words of empowerment and kindness to each other.

One day, your voice will leave you. When it does, may it echo a message of nobility and love.