Richard B. “Dick” Hanger served eight years as a Shawnee County commissioner in the 1960s, and worked in recent years to benefit this community in terms of affordable housing and parks and recreation.
Hanger, who died Dec. 17 at age 90, is the focus of this week’s History Guy video at CJOnline.
Hanger was born Oct. 31, 1928. His obituary said that as a boy, he regularly took salt tablets to the workers building Lake Shawnee, which opened in 1939 in southeast Shawnee County.
Hanger graduated in 1947 from Topeka High School, then attended Washburn University and helped to rescue flood victims here in 1951.
Hanger was elected in 1960 to the Shawnee County Commission, where he served eight years. In that position, his accomplishments included:
• Playing a key role in local recovery efforts after this community was devastated by a massive tornado in 1966.
• Helping oversee construction of the current county courthouse at 200 S.E. 7th.
• Being instrumental in hiring Ted Ensley, who was superintendent of the county’s parks and recreation department from 1961 to 1992 and later served 16 years as a county commissioner.
As a commissioner, Hanger showed a particular interest in matters involving Lake Shawnee. He and his wife of 69 years, Dorothy Anne “Dotty” Hanger, lived near the lake for many years. She survives.
Dotty Hanger’s mother, Zula Bennington Greene, was a longtime Topeka Daily Capital columnist who lived from 1895 to 1988 and was known as “Peggy of the Flint Hills.”
Dick Hanger also served on the Kansas Public Employees Retirement Board and the Kansas Fish and Game Commission, where he worked with other commissioners to build a large fish hatchery below Lake Milford Dam near Junction City.
Dick and Dotty Hanger’s daughter, Melissa Hanger, died in 2000 after a long battle with multiple sclerosis. The couple teamed up with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in 2015 to create the Melissa Anne Hanger Apartments in Topeka to provide affordable housing for low-income adults with MS and other physical disabilities.
The Hangers agreed in 2010 to donate at least $100,000 to develop the Dick and Dotty Hanger Family Preserve at Lake Shawnee.
The couple played a key role in helping raise money for parks and recreation projects, which included renovating the former Lake Shawnee Junior. Dick and Dotty Hanger were honored Oct. 29 — two days before Dick Hanger’s 90th birthday — at a ceremony in which that was renamed the Hanger Family Fishing Pond.