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December 1, 2021

65th Anniversary: Lifetime of love

Sandoe Hanna still remembers the night he fell in love with Mildred Swarner. “It was lucky for me,” he says. ‘I had to take my little sister and little brother to a
teenage dance. She was the oldest girl there.
That’s when I got hooked.”
That was 1931. Three years later, on April
14, Sandoe married Mildred, and on Wednesday afternoon, the couple will
celebrate their 65th anniversary.
Both from longtime Gilroy families, the Hannas knew each other since they were young. Sandoe, now 87, remembers Mildred, now 85, and her long red curls from his younger brother’s class in elementary school.
“He knew who I was, he just didn’t pay any attention to me,” Mildred says. “He didn’t get interested until that dance.”
Now, 68 years after the dance, the Hannas have four children, William, Sandra, Roy and Tom, 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, and they still make each other laugh.
The secret to the Hannas’ longevity may be that it just never occurred to them to split up.
• “People didn’t get divorced,” Mildred says.
“There was never enough money to split it, so she had to stay,” Sandoe jokes.
Mildred and Sandoe attended San Jose State University, and would make the drive in an Erskine, an old Studebaker car. The car was unreliable and would often break down, frequently making the two late for school. Their repeated tardiness got Mildred called into the office and she was told to either get rid of the car or get rid of the man, she says.
“I guess you can tell which one I kept!” she says.
The couple live in the house that Sandoe, who holds a degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University, built, next to the welding shop that he also built, in 1941, but which they now rent out.
Sandoe would sometimes have to travel to other parts of the state for his work, so the whole family would go along in a motor home that he also built. Mildred would sometimes work alongside Sandoe, keeping books and even helping him with steel work.
Having lived in Gilroy their entire lives, the Hannas remember when it was a very different city.
“I grew up with a team of horses and peaches on the wagon, driving through to the cannery,” he says.
Sandoe is the great-grandson of William Hanna, who was mayor of Gilroy and who served in the state legislature in 1877. His family came to Gilroy in 1854, and a downtown Gilroy street bears their name. Mildred’s family came to Gilroy in 1904.
Another longtime Gilroy resident, 78-year-old Aldo Viarengo, knows the Hannas, and remembers when Sandoe worked for his mother.
“He was always real nice,” Viarengo says. “Whatever he said, he did. He’s always got a story to tell.”
The Hannas are avid
travelers, and visited Alaska last year, where they greeted their newest great-grandchild and attended a grandson’s wedding.
Although they were reluctant to give advice to young
couples, the Hannas know what has worked for them.
“Never say or call anybody a derogatory name, one of those things that would fester in their mind,” Sandoe says. “If you don’t call them something that hurts, you don’t have anything to work out of.”
They also never went to bed with an argument left unresolved, Mildred says.
And after more than six decades together, the Hannas function as a unit.
“You get to know what the other one is thinking,” Mildred says.

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