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Michael (Mike) Hanson


September 1, 2021

Michael (Mike) Hanson

Michael (Mike) Hanson, age 62, passed suddenly on August 21, 2021, in Sparta WI.

Mike was an amazing man who lived a life much fuller than could be given justice in only a few paragraphs. He will be remembered for his intelligence, integrity and for having a sharp wit and pointed sense of humor (both of which he often used to poke good-natured 'cuts and jabs' at those he loved). More than anything else, Mike will be remembered for being that rare someone who instantly instilled trust and respect from everyone he encountered. People often remarked "Mike is the best person I have ever met."

Mike loved his children and family above all else. He was especially fond of telling "Ole and Lena" jokes and serving his family delicious meals as the grill master while drinking ice-cold Miller Lite with olives. He also loved hunting and fishing - relishing his time deer hunting in Wisconsin, elk & deer hunting in Montana, pheasant hunting in South Dakota, bass fishing in Wisconsin, ocean fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, and frequent fly-in fishing trips to Canada with friends.

Mike was born on December 12, 1958, in Sparta WI, the second of three boys to Richard and Donna (Raines) Hanson. He graduated with the Class of 1977 from Sparta High School, where he demonstrated his leadership by excelling in wide variety of school activities and sports and being elected President of the Student Council. The summer after graduating high school, Mike entered the US Naval Academy, Class of 1981. After two academic years, Mike resigned from the Academy to pursue a different path for his life. He found work at Northern States Power (NSP) in LaCrosse, and enrolled in the University of Wisconsin, LaCrosse.

On February 16, 1980, Mike married his high school sweetheart Laura Eggers at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Sparta Wisconsin. On May 25, 1982, his son Justin was born and on March 19, 1985, his daughter Danielle was born. Mike and Laura raised their two wonderful children together, then separated later.

A natural leader, and deeply strategic thinker, Mike achieved a successful business career. In December 1982 Mike graduated from UWL with bachelor's degree in accounting. The next summer, he joined the Accounts Payable Department for NSP in Minneapolis, and Mike and Laura's young family moved to Brooklyn Park, MN. In April 1984 Mike passed the Certified Internal Auditor Exam, was promoted to NSP's Internal Audit Department, and began pursuing a degree in Law. In May 1989, Mike graduated from the William Mitchell School of Law, University of Minnesota, and joined the Legal Department at NSP. In January 1994, Mike was offered the job as Chief Executive of NSP South Dakota in Sioux Falls, becoming the youngest executive in NSP's history at that time. Mike and his family moved to Sioux Falls, South Dakota where they lived until his children Justin and Danielle completed high school and college.

On June 1, 1998, Mike left NSP to accept the job of President of NorthWestern Public Service in Huron South Dakota. After merging with Montana Power Company, the new company is named NorthWestern Corporation, with Mike in the role of Chief Operating Officer. In May 2005 Mike was promoted to the role of President & CEO of NorthWestern Corporation. In August 2008, Mike decided to retire young, and resigned his position with NorthWestern Corporation. However, during this early first retirement, Mike quickly felt the "need to have more to do" as he put it and began to miss the challenges of leading a business. In November 2011, Mike returned to work as President of Avania, Inc, in Fargo North Dakota, and later also as a Board Member of Benson Power, LLC. Mike retired permanently, in September 2018.

Mike had a deep interest in genealogy. In retirement, he pursued the hobby extensively, spending untold hours digging into research, successfully tracing his father's family to their origins in Norway and his mother's family all the way back to ancestors who lived in the original Jamestown Colony, and others who fought in the Revolutionary War.

Mike also traveled extensively, particularly enjoying road trips in the United States and visiting his children in California. During his life, Mike traveled to all 48 lower US states, plus Hawaii. He also traveled internationally, visiting Australia, Canada, and several other countries.

Mike is survived by his children Justin (Molly) Hanson, Los Angeles, CA, and Danielle Hanson (John Bermeo), Pasadena, CA; the mother of his children Laura, Los Angeles, CA; his parents Richard and Donna Hanson, Sparta, Wi; his brothers Henry (Yvonne) Hanson, Lake Mills, WI and Ron (Mary) Hanson, Sparta, WI; a maternal aunt Rose (James) Woods, Green Cove Springs, FL; Nephews and Nieces: Kristy (Troy) Taylor, Reid Hanson , Kami (Chad) Ayers, Kelly (Craig) Erickson, Keni (Tyler) Theisen; partner Mia Perez, Blue Springs Missouri; and a host of friends and extended family who will miss him dearly.

Funeral services were held Saturday, August 28, 2021, 11:00 a.m. at Portland Lutheran Church, 7526 WI-33, Cashton, WI 54619. Pastor Dave Sorenson officiated. Family and friends were invited for visitation Friday, August 27, from 4-7:00 p.m. at the Torkelson Funeral Home, 718 Wisconsin St., Cashton. Visitation was also be held Saturday from 10:00 a.m. until the time of service at the church.

The Torkelson Funeral Home of Cashton is assisting the family with arrangements. Online condolences may be offered to the family at


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