Hansen honored as a ‘Traffic Safety Hero’

What Raymond “Joe” Hansen initially thought was a joke turned out to be an award for his service as a safety patrol officer 60-plus years ago.

“I was dumbfounded when I realized that I was being awarded for just doing my job,” said Hansen.

Sixth grader Joe Hansen knew he made the big leagues when he joined his South Arlington, Va., AAA School Safety Patrol in the late 1940s.

The retired Shelton engineer recalled how his patroller duties influenced his life.

“It’s made me responsible by being attentive to my duties. It developed in me a perseverance to do what’s expected,” he recalled. “In a way, it was my first job and I appreciated the opportunity to participate.”

AAA Northeast recently honored Hansen as a “Traffic Safety Hero” at its sixth annual Traffic Safety Community Award lunch, where the motor club also recognizes police departments and individual officers for their traffic safety achievements over the past year.

Joe and his wife, Liz, both of Shelton, were among several honorees at the lunch, where AAA Northeast highlighted this year’s 95th anniversary of the National School Safety Patrol Program.

Hansen was also one of several hundred AAA members and former school patrollers from Litchfield, Fairfield and New Haven counties who responded to a request earlier this year from AAA Northeast CEO Mark Shaw to share those patrol memories.

Hansen said his fondest memories of his school patroller days at Nellie Custis Elementary School in South Arlington were of the year he and his fellow patrollers marched down Washington, D.C.’s, Pennsylvania Avenue with much fanfare in the AAA National’s annual School Safety Patrol parade.

For him, the day was a “grand slam” because he not only marched, he attended his first professional baseball game with other area patrollers from throughout the country. He recalled seeing the Washington Senators take on the Cleveland Indians and at one point, “a relief pitcher came in for Cleveland,” Joe said. “He was throwing with a wind-up like no other pitcher.”

The pitcher was Leroy “Satchel” Paige, a young black ballplayer with a legendary fastball that landed him in the Baseball Hall of Fame.