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Hanson wins Senior of the Year award

March 16, 2011 - She's been Oxford's travel agent for two decades, coordinating hundreds of fun-filled trips that have spawned thousands of wonderful memories.

In appreciation for all her efforts, Mary Jean Hanson, a Lake Orion resident and employee of the Oxford Township Parks and Recreation Department, is going to be honored with a state award.

The 80-year-old Lake Orion resident is scheduled to receive the Michigan Recreation and Park Association's "Margaret Whitehead Senior of the Year - Service Award" on Wednesday, March 16 at the Hannah Community Center in East Lansing.

As part of her award, Hanson's won a free three-day trip to the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.

"Oh my gosh, I couldn't believe it," Hanson said. "I was really shocked. That's pretty good for an old lady."

For the past 20 years, Hanson has coordinated trips over land, sea and air to destinations both local and exotic. The majority of folks who go on the trips are senior citizens, but these excursions are open to all ages.

"Most people her age would be going on these trips, not trying to plan them anymore because it's a lot of work," said Becky Paquin, office administrator and senior coordinator for the parks and recreation department. "She's been doing it for 20 years and she's not giving up. She's like the Energizer Bunny; she just will not stop."

It was Paquin who nominated Hanson for the award.

"She's been a pleasure to work with for all these years," Paquin said. "She's more like my mom than a co-worker."

Over the years, Hanson's taken groups on trips to New Zealand, Australia, England, Scotland, Wales, Canada, Hawaii, Missouri, Florida, Texas, California, Nevada, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Georgia and North Carolina.

"We've gone on so many trips," she said, noting at one point, she used to average 20-30 per year.

Hanson's favorite trips have been to Branson, Missouri, a place well-known for its variety of family-friendly musical entertainment.

"I love that place," she said. "It's not all country (music). Everybody thinks that, but it's not."

Her destinations within Michigan have included Frankenmuth, Mackinac Island, Chelsea and Detroit.

Kewadin Casino is always the most popular trip. She's already got 108 people - two full buses - booked for the next visit.

"People love the gambling. That sells out first," Hanson said.

When asked why she started organizing these trips and kept doing it for 20 years, Hanson replied, "I enjoy being with people. I've met so many wonderful people. I play games on the bus, tell stories. It's fun."

Hanson also enjoys her relationship with the parks and recreation staff.

"I work with a wonderful group of people," she said. "I couldn't ask for better people to work with."

Despite the fact she just celebrated her 80th birthday in December, don't look for Hanson to call it quits anytime soon.

"I told them I'm going to work with them until I'm 100," she said. "I lasted this long. I don't plan on retiring."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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