William The Coroner’s Forensic Files

Monday, 9, May, 2011

Somebody’s Shipmate UPDATE

Filed under: Circle Game,In Memoriam — williamthecoroner @ 09:03

I learned of Chief Hannah from Neptunus Lex.  I thought the word should get out, and I’m using Lex’s own words, he’s better at it than I am.

John D. Hannah served his country honorably. Retired as a senior chief petty officer. Went back home to Illinois

His wife died, he took it hard. Dropped out of life as it is normally lived. Helped out at with chores at a homeless shelter in Detroit, in exchange for a vinyl mat to sleep on. Smoked, got lung cancer, died. Utterly alone, and unclaimed:

His body lies alone in a cooled room in the Gates of Heaven Funeral Home in Detroit, thanks to the grace of its 66-year-old owner, Joseph Norris, who said, “My heart told me I had to do this.”

Norris is keeping Hannah unburied, in a donated coffin, until someone from his family, some brother, sister, child, uncle, cousin — even a friend — comes forward to say they knew him.

For two weeks, no one has, despite Hannah’s years of service in the Navy, despite an honorable discharge, despite calls and a letter to the U.S. Military Retirement Pay Division. Bureaucracy and privacy concerns (ironic for a man whom no one has claimed) bog down the process.

Meanwhile, Hannah’s corpse remains unvisited. Surely, there is someone reading this who knew him? A man can’t simply die in the state where he was raised, in the city where he lived and have no one to stand by his coffin, can he?

I don’t think I ever met him. But somebody did. Maybe not you, shipmates. But maybe someone you knew. Or someone they knew.

Someone who can help. Ask around.

UPDATE:  They located Senior Chief John Hannah’s brother, and are working on arranging a proper burial at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center.


  1. I love a happy ending. I’m so glad they found his brother.

    Comment by Auntie J — Tuesday, 10, May, 2011 @ 00:32 | Reply

  2. I’m thankful for that. And for the gentleman who took the time and effort to ‘protect’ his remains.

    Comment by Old NFO — Wednesday, 11, May, 2011 @ 08:19 | Reply

  3. Took a while for this to click for me. Apparently a lot of people knew him — just not in person:

    “Life’s a joy that has to end”: John Hannah, Rest in Peace (Ravings of a Feral Genius)

    J sub D, Rest in Peace (The Agitator)

    Seems that Chief Hannah was a prolific, insightful, and relentlessly cheerful commenter on this here series of tubes… where he touched a lot of people, even if they didn’t know his name ’til he died. Maybe it’s my withered and atrophied optimistic streak, but I don’t think he died utterly alone.

    Comment by bluntobject — Thursday, 12, May, 2011 @ 00:23 | Reply

  4. Thanks for posting this. These stories need to be told. Reminds me of an old retired Navy Officer who lived homeless in Schenley Park in Pittsburgh. He spent his final days walking around the golf course picking up lost golf balls for beer money.

    Comment by Ross Rogalski — Thursday, 12, May, 2011 @ 06:35 | Reply

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