By Cory Hurley and Jamie Bennett
CORNER BROOK — Former Corner Brook municipal representative and business icon W.I. (Bill) Hann died Wednesday.
It is the end of an era, said one of his acquaintances, pertaining to the death of the 94-year-old Second World War veteran.
Born in Grand Falls in 1918, Hann moved to Corner Brook in 1930 where he would make his mark throughout the community and well beyond. He served in the Second World War as a member of the 166 Newfoundland Field Artillery Regiment and left for England in 1940.
He met, and later married, his wife Mary while serving overseas.
Following the war, Hann returned to the city, where he settled with Mary. He operated the successful Hann Brothers store, first on Caribou Road and later Broadway, a business which later expanded to stores in Stephenville and Deer Lake. He also refurbished what is now the Hotel Corner Brook and ran it for 40 years.
In addition to his work as a business man, Hann served a number of stints on city council. From 1967-1969 and 1970-1973 he was deputy mayor, and also served as a councillor from 1974-1975.
Former mayor and longtime city Coun. Priscilla Boutcher, who considered Hann a friend, said she was saddened and surprised to hear of his death. She visited with him over Christmas, but remembered he was unable to attend another holiday function because he wasn’t feeling well.
“I only talked to him a few days before he went into the hospital,” Boutcher said. “He would call just to chat, to tell me how he was feeling. If there was anything on the go in the city, he would still love to be there.”
Boutcher remembers Hann as a passionate champion for both his fellow veterans and the community he called home for much of his life. She said one of her fondest memories is the pride he took in wearing his service uniform, which included a kilt, and how he liked to sit near the front at ceremonies in order to show off his sharp military duds.
As with many of Hann’s friends and those who came in contact with him, Boutcher said her life was enriched for knowing him and that his loss is a significant one for the community.
“His heart was so much for Corner Brook,” she said. “He was only a small man, but he had a big heart. He was a man that showed his emotions, especially with the Legionnaires. He had a lot of friends and people respected him. He could be very humorous and he could be serious too.”
Meanwhile, Dave Wells, president of Branch 13 of the Royal Canadian Legion, said although Hann wasn’t as active with the legion in recent years, he was always a valuable and eager source of historical information about his time in service.
The president recently saw Hann, and described him as looking in good health and active.
A regular at Remembrance Day ceremonies and other special legion functions, Wells said he will miss Hann’s sense of humour and positive attitude.
“He was always smiling,” he said. “The cup was always half full.”
With the number of Second World War veterans dwindling, Wells said it’s always sad to lose a veteran who lived such a long, fruitful life.
“It’s the passing of an era for sure,” he said. “It’s sad, but we have to look at it from the sense that he had a long life and he was happy and healthy right up until the end.
“It’s unfortunate because all the WW1 veterans are gone and, the World War Two ones, we are losing them quickly.”