Former BDN circulation chief dies at 82

Posted July 12, 2010, at 11:12 p.m.

Former Bangor Daily News circulation manager Donald Hanscom was remembered as a dedicated newspaperman, leader by example, revered friend, competitive athlete, beloved family man and a Maine Baseball Hall of Fame member, too, by friends, family and colleagues.

Hanscom died at the age of 82 Saturday morning at Ross Manor in Bangor.

“He was a mentor as well as a father,” said Scott Hanscom, the youngest of Hanscom’s six children. “He asked nothing of anyone that he wasn’t willing to do himself. Period.

“If I could be half the man he was, I’d be doing really well.”

Hanscom served as the BDN’s circulation chief for nine years before retiring in 1986 with 37 years at the paper. The BDN’s circulation was 80,000 on weekdays and 91,000 on Saturdays at the end of his tenure. He oversaw the start of the BDN’s motor route system of delivery in rural areas to avoid rapidly increasing mail rates in the early and mid-1980s.

The Lincoln native and longtime Hampden resident, who coined the term “Sunrisers” for carriers, started with the BDN in 1949 as a supervisor of carriers, promoting newspaper sales at many locations all over the paper’s circulation area. He took over the circulation department in 1978 with 33 employees.

One of those was Pat Barnard, a native Canadian who grew up in Woodland and also enjoyed a 37-year career with the BDN.

“Don was a great friend and a super person. We were very close and had a friendship I really cherish,” said Barnard. “I can’t say enough good about him.

“He was a very dear friend to me who was well-known and well-liked by anyone who knew him. I don’t think anyone has a bad word about him.”

Barnard became not only an assistant and co-worker of Hanscom’s, but also a close friend who eventually became circulation manager himself in 1989 and served in that position until retiring in 1992.

“Don taught me a lot, mostly by example. The friendship we had was special to me,” Barnard said. “We used to go door to door to pick up new business all over the state.

“He was just a super person and one of the best, lifetime friends of mine. Even while I’ve been here [as a retiree living in St. Augustine, Fla.], I always call him every month to find out how things were going.”

Hanscom earned the respect of both teammates and opposing athletes.

“He’s one of the toughest competitors I know, and a real gentleman,” said Dennis Libbey, president of the Sargent, Tyler and West insurance agency in Bangor.

Libbey played baseball against Hanscom’s Dixmont teams both as a member of the Bangor Merchants in the old Northeastern League as well as in school when Libbey played for Mattawamkeag.

“When I was a freshman at UMaine, Thaxter Trafton brought our Bangor Merchants team, which was almost all UMaine players, down to play Dixmont,” recalled Libbey, who was able to catch up with Hanscom a month ago at Sunbury Village in Bangor. “The only game we lost all year was against Donnie, who threw a knuckleball. We either scored one run or none.

“Donnie didn’t care if he was playing UMaine or the Red Sox, he was going to win. On the mound, he was tough.”

Hanscom, also a shortstop, played regularly in competitive leagues for three decades. He was inducted into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987.

“He only stopped playing at age 45 because the leagues folded. He even played first base for us at the age of 69 in the EMABL [Eastern Maine Amateur Baseball League] for the Bucksaver A’s,” said Scott Hanscom. “Shoot, he was well into his 50s until I could beat him in a footrace.”

Former BDN circulation director Jim Hayes, who became director of operations this year, called Hanscom an ideal mentor and role model. Even though he didn’t have to work weekends, Hanscom delivered papers on Saturdays to home delivery customers whose papers were mangled or missing.

“He talked about going to this house in Rockland once. The guy started chewing him out, but he never said anything bad. He just listened, said ‘thank you’ and then went to the back door,” Hayes said. “He knocked, and after the guy opened the door, he said, ‘I just met the ugliest guy in my travels at the front door, but I’m hoping you’re not the same way.’ That defused the situation and I think the guy ended up getting a paper.”

Hanscom, who was predeceased by his wife, Marilyn, had six children: Cheryl Hanscom Millett, Rejina Hanscom Morgan, Alan Hanscom, Lance Hanscom, Valerie Hanscom Jameson and Scott.

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