In the Navy and in his hobby shop, Bob Hansen of Bob’s Village Hobby lived to fly

Robert “Bob” Hansen outside a plane in the Navy Reserve, left, and inside his Bob’s Village Hobby shop in 1981.
Robert “Bob” Hansen outside a plane in the Navy Reserve, left, and inside his Bob’s Village Hobby shop in 1981.

Flying planes was a lifelong passion for Robert “Bob” Hansen.

pilot vertical
Robert “Bob” Hansen beside a plane in the U.S Navy Reserve. HANSEN FAMILY Special to The Bee

He flew real ones in the U.S. Navy Reserve for 20 years, then small remote-controlled models as the founder and co-owner of Bob’s Village Hobby in Fresno. Mr. Hansen delighted in using customers’ purchases as an excuse to take their new planes for a spin in the skies above his shop in Fig Garden Village.

“He spent most of his time teaching people how to fly,” brother Chet Hansen recalls, “teaching people how to build – what kind of stuff to use and what not to do – taking them out to the fields and flying their planes with them.”

Mr. Hansen died in Fresno on Saturday at the age of 87.

Brad Hansen, one of Mr. Hansen’s six children, says that despite his father’s gruff exterior, which earned him the nickname of a tough old Viking, he was a “genuinely decent human being” – generous, kind, honest, fair and funny.

“He didn’t tell terrible dad jokes,” Brad Hansen says, “but he loved laughing at things.”

In addition to selling model planes, Bob’s Village Hobby offered items such as model trains, dollhouses, kites, and arts and crafts.

Mr. Hansen opened the shop in the early 1970s and operated it with his brother, Chet Hansen, until 1993 when they closed it and retired. The shop expanded in size from 1,300 to 4,000 square feet during those years.

“We’re just two guys playing store, not monster businessmen,” said Chet Hansen in a Bee story about the store’s closure.

Mr. Hansen returned to his hometown of Fresno to open Bob’s Village Hobby after retiring as a lieutenant commander in the Navy Reserve. During his time in the military, he fought in the Korean War and was stationed at bases in Hawaii, Texas, Maryland and the Bay Area.

“He was always grateful to the government, grateful to Uncle Sam, for giving him an airplane and teaching him how to fly,” son Doug Hansen says. “That was pretty much how he described his Navy career.”

Bob Hansen head shot
Robert “Bob” Hansen HANSEN FAMILY Special to The Bee

Mr. Hansen took his model-airplane flying seriously. His approach was reflected in his store’s motto: “We take fun seriously.” He was generous in sharing his expertise with customers.

Mr. Hansen continued his model-plane building at home, which brought fun into the Hansen household for his children.

“His love for his whole life was flying,” son Brad Hansen says, “whether it was real planes or models.”

Robert “Bob” Hansen in the cockpit of a plane when he served in the U.S Navy Reserve. HANSEN FAMILY Special to The Bee

Carmen George: 559-441-6386, @CarmenGeorge

Robert ‘Bob’ Hansen

Born: Dec. 25, 1929

Died: Dec. 16, 2017

Residence: Fresno

Occupation: Retired Navy Reserve aviator and founder of Bob’s Village Hobby

Survivors: Wife Janice Hansen; sons Douglas, Robert, Bradford, Keith and Craig Hansen; daughter Jennifer Ickes; brother Chester “Chet” Hansen; nine grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Services: Celebration of life 2 p.m. Tuesday at Whitehurst Sullivan Burns & Blair Funeral Home, 1525 E. Saginaw Way, Fresno.