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Richard Robert Hanson

September 26, 2018

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Richard Robert Hanson, a man who loved life and was known regionally as the “father of the festivals,” died peacefully at his home in Amherst County on the morning of September 26, 2018. As his family gathered in the days before his death, Richard, in true form, brought comfort through both laughter and song to all of them.

Richard was born March 28,1925, in Niagara Falls, New York. His parents were Alma and Cornell Hanson, who had moved to New York from Wisconsin Rapids after the birth of their first three children, a boy and two girls. In Niagara Falls, five more boys came along. Richard was the youngest of eight. His parents and all of his siblings except one preceded him in death. He is survived by his beloved brother Kenneth Hanson, of Providence, R.I.

Richard’s family moved from Niagara Falls to Lynchburg when Richard was in sixth grade. Niagara Falls was an industrial city, and Richard couldn’t get over the lush greenery of Virginia. In Lynchburg, Richard’s lifelong love of trains and nature, especially the wonders of Virginia’s great outdoors, were born.

After E. C. Glass High School and the University of Virginia, Richard was asked by a sister-in-law he idolized, Jean Claiborne Hanson, to caretake her family’s ancestral home, Geddes, in Clifford. It was there that he met the first love of his life, Ella McGinnis Caldwell, and her two little daughters, Anne Ligon and Patience “Patsy” Taliaferro, who Richard came to love as his own. Ella and Richard were married in Massies Mill on March 19, 1950. They went on to have two more daughters, Ella McGinnis Hanson and Rebecca Hill Hanson, and 50 years of marriage. He was preceded in death by his wife, Ella, and daughters, Anne and Pat.

After a long career as an engineer at General Electric in Lynchburg, Richard retired early in 1984 and put his love of the outdoors to work by clearing land and planting a vineyard. He named it Rebec, in honor of his youngest daughter Rebecca. A rebec is also an ancient stringed instrument like a lute and that inspired the logo for Rebec Vineyards. Richard loved wine, both making it and drinking it, especially Cabernet Sauvignon. He and his son-in-law Mark Magruder built the winery together by hand, a pole building re-constructed from an old barn on the family farm. Mark also introduced Richard to the joys of garlic, and Richard went on to host the Virginia Wine and Garlic Festival at Rebec Vineyards for 20 years and help start many other festivals too.

In 2001, Richard met the second love of his life, Lynn Andrew Lawrence, of Altavista. They married in August of that year, and had 17 happy and exciting years together, sharing all sorts of adventures, including a train trip and two driving trips cross country to America’s beautiful national parks. With their marriage, Richard gained new family, including two step-children, Ruth Andrew Ellenson of New York City and Rabbi Micah Ellenson of Cheshire, Conn.

In 2010, Richard turned Rebec and the festival over to Svet Kanev, a former Future Farmers of America exchange student from Bulgaria who had worked for many years as Richard’s winemaker. Although not technically related, Richard could not have loved Svet and his family more. Svet says that the upcoming festival, in two weeks, will be dedicated to Richard.

Richard was also proud to be a past president and founding member of the Clifford Ruritan Club, where he was instrumental in founding the club’s annual Sorghum Festival. Proceeds from the festival helped the club buy the old Clifford School, and preserve its rich history. All four of Richard’s daughters attended the Clifford school, and he served as president of the PTA. If anyone would like to make a donation in Richard’s memory, The Clifford Ruritan Club Scholarship Fund, PO Box 34, Clifford, VA 24533, would be an appropriate choice.

Richard was the center of a large extended family, both by blood and by choice. In recent years, connecting with long-lost nieces, nephews and cousins, from Wisconsin to Connecticut to California to Pennsylvania, enriched his life immeasurably. He is survived by his wife, Lynn; his children and step-children, Ella Magruder, Rebecca Hanson, Ruth Andrew Ellenson, and Rabbi Micah Ellenson; their spouses, Mark Magruder, Reid LaClair, and Sara Baddin; his grandchildren and step-grandchildren, Charles Cake, Marion Cake, Tommy Richeson, Elizabeth Jones, Conan Magruder, Mia Magruder Dammann, Nathan LaClair, and Lily and Rosie Ellenson; their spouses and fiancés, Maria Ochoa Cake, Lisha Reynolds, Sonya Richeson, Lynn Jones, and Christopher Dammann; his great grandchildren, Annemarie and Charles Cake, Samantha and Zachary Cake, Matthew and Dylan Richeson and their mother, Cheryl, and Christopher, William and Sarabeth Jones; one great-great grandson, Zachary Jones and his mother, Amy; Svet Kanev and his son, Nick; Svet’s wife, Shah, and her daughter, Shakhlo; and many more relatives and dear friends than can be named here. Finally, thanks to all the health care professionals that helped Richard live and die at home.

A memorial celebration, befitting Richard’s personality and beliefs, will be held in the spring, when the flowers in his yard are blooming.

Tharp Funeral Home & Crematory, Lynchburg, is assisting the family.  To send condolences, please visit

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