ALAMEDA -- Family and friends are mourning the death of Frank Hanna, an Alameda educator who touched the lives of thousands of students during his 35-year career.
A former principal of Encinal High School, Hanna died on May 10. He was 90.
"He was very dedicated to his job and to his students," said his daughter, Jeanne Woltering. "He wanted what was best for them and he wanted them to succeed."
Hanna began working at the Alameda Unified School District in 1951, teaching industrial arts at Washington Elementary School. In 1962, he became head counselor at Encinal, where he also served as vice principal between 1966 and 1971.
Hanna briefly served as principal of the former Chipman Middle School before he took over the top post at Encinal in July 1973.
During his more than 15 years as the principal, Hanna was especially proud of his close ties with the military families at the neighboring Alameda Naval Air Station, his daughter said.
He once arranged a graduation ceremony on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. He also helped bring the A-4 Skyhawk jet that remains on a pedestal, as if in flight, outside the school's main office.
While the Skyhawk was initially installed because Encinal's sports teams are called the Jets, the aircraft has since become a landmark that reflects the town's military heritage, especially in the West End.
"He had many connections, and he used them," Woltering said.
Hanna's affinity for the sailors and their families likely stemmed from his own military background. He served with the U.S. Army's 526th Armored Infantry Battalion during World War II, including at the Battle of the Bulge.
Councilman Tony Daysog said he often interacted with Hanna when he was Encinal's student body president in spring 1994.
"Mr. Hanna was a stern but fair straight-shooter whom everyone respected," Daysog said. "He brought a demeanor and a style of leadership that held together Encinal's incredible economic and racial diversity."
Hanna once summoned him and a few other students into his office, Daysog said, after they became rowdy during a basketball game.
"We were called into his office and, leading up to that meeting, I can tell you we were all sweating bullets, so great was Mr. Hanna's stern reputation," Daysog said. "Sitting behind his desk with Vice Principal Ken Biba next to him, Mr. Hanna said, 'You guys know better,' as we waited for the heavy hammer to fall. 'Now get out of here and go back to your classes.' We all breathed a sigh of relief, pledging to return to being the model students we thought we were."
Theo Karantsalis, who graduated in 1979, said his troublemaking as a student led to frequent encounters with Hanna.
"Mr. Hanna suspended me many times in the late '70s at Encinal High for things like fighting, talking back to teachers and spinning doughnuts on the front lawn," Karantsalis said. "He would hold a formal hearing in his office and said he expected me to do better when I returned. He always gave me a second chance."
Hanna wore three-piece suits, Karantsalis said, and "looked like a board member at IBM."
"When we saw him walking down the halls, we would scramble," he said.
Karantsalis is now associate director of learning resources at Miami Dade College in Florida.
"As a teacher, at an outreach center in Miami's inner city, I have continued Mr. Hanna's second- (or third-) chance tradition with my students," he said. "Forgiveness, with discipline, can make all the difference in a troubled student's life. God bless him."
Hanna was born on July 30, 1923, in Washington.
He met his wife, Clare, in San Diego shortly after World War II. The couple married in June 1946 after a three-week courtship, daughter Jeanne Woltering said.
"He said she was the most gorgeous woman he had ever seen," Woltering said.
After Hanna graduated from San Jose State, the couple moved to Alameda, where Clare Hanna worked as an administrator at the former Notre Dame High School. The school later merged with St. Joseph's High School to form St. Joseph Notre Dame High School.
During their retirement, the couple bred AKC international and national champion Cairn Terriers.
Frank Hanna served as president of the Cairn Terrier Club of Northern California and was active with Key Club, Kiwanis Club and other organizations.
Hanna was predeceased by his son, Kevin Scott, and his wife, Clare.
Along with Jeanne Woltering of Brentwood, Hanna is survived by his children, Pat Dowling of Livermore and Nancy Lovelady of Alameda; eight grandchildren; and one great-granddaughter.
"He was the most positive person you could ever meet," Woltering said. "For him, every day was a great day."
The family held a graveside service for Hanna on Tuesday at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Hayward. In lieu of flowers, they ask that donations be made to St. Cecilia's Catholic Church, P. O Box 289 Lagunitas, California, 94938.
Reach Peter Hegarty at 510-748-1654 or follow him on Twitter.com/Peter_Hegarty.