Edward V. Hanrahan

— Photo from Lynda Hanrahan

Thacher State Park was a favorite place for Edward Hanrahan — here with two sons and two grandchildren — to ride his BMW motorcycle. From left is Brian Hanrahan with his children, Rhea and Steven; Edward Hanrahan; and Thomas Hanrahan.

ALTAMONT — Edward V. Hanrahan was a master carpenter and a man of few words who taught his seven children by showing, rather than telling, them how to build.

He died on Thursday, June 14, 2018. He was 91.

“He was a good provider,” said his daughter, Lynda Hanrahan, the eldest of his seven children. “We learned from him that precision is really important. You measure twice and cut once.”

She also said, “He was a man of few words, but what he said, we knew the meaning.”

Born in Albany, he was the son of James Edward and Lydia (née Beyer) Hanrahan. Both of his parents were first-generation Americans. His father, from an Irish family, was in the Army and worked at the Port of Albany as a logistics manager, recording Army ships coming into the port.

Lynda Hanrahan has fond memories of her grandfather visiting the family in Westmere and tossing Tootsie Rolls to neighborhood kids out of the window of a series of his large, new cars.

Mr. Hanrahan’s mother came from a German family of furriers. “My grandmother was quite the seamstress and would take me to shops on Pearl Street and show me how the best coats and dresses were constructed,” recalled Ms. Hanrahan. “She had an amazing eye for color because she had to match pelts.”

James Edward and Lydia Hanrahan had four children — three girls and a boy. Mr. Hanrahan was the second youngest. He attended Vincentian Institute, leaving at age 17 to join the United States Navy to serve during World War II.

He rotated the guns on board ship, said his daughter, adding, “Dad did a lot of woodcarving to pass the time.”

Woodcraft and custom cabinetry became his passion. Mr. Hanrahan was a member of Carpenters Local 370 for nearly 70 years. “He was well-known and highly respected as a superior craftsman in the Union Hall,” his daughter said.

Many local homes and facilities bear his trademark precision carpentry, including the Governor’s Mansion and New York Senate Chambers. While working to replace a stair railing at the Governor’s Mansion, “Dad was one of the few people that could craft the curved railing,” said Ms. Hanrahan. “He knew how to bend wood.”

In the Senate Chamber, the leather upholstered walls had square, rather than the usual round, brass tacks, meaning a carpenter couldn’t hit the tacks at random angles. Mr. Hanrahan was the only carpenter that could hit the tacks in a way that kept their orientation correct, said his daughter.

During the time he worked on that project, she said, “My family would say, ‘He works in the senate.’”

Mr. Hanrahan used his carpentry skills to build his family’s homes. The first was a three-bedroom house on Shady Lane in Guilderland. “My mother kept on getting pregnant,” said Ms. Hanrahan. So Mr. Hanrahan then built a six-bedroom house on the same street. All the bedrooms were filled as the Hanrahans raised three girls and four boys.

“He was always a little bit quiet and kind of a loner,” Ms. Hanrahan said of her father. When Mr. Hanrahan worked in his basement woodshop, he would tell his children, “You can look and you can watch, but you can’t ask questions.”

She went on, “As a master craftsman, he took the same tack with apprentices … He was good at showing but not telling.”

Besides woodworking, two of Mr. Hanrahan’s lifelong interests were archery and motorcycles. He was a founding member of the Northeast BMW Motorcycle Club and enjoyed motorcycle touring and camping with his sons.

“I was about 13 when he started with motorcycles,” said Ms. Hanrahan. “BMWs are very well crafted, so he was attracted to those. They’re German-engineered and the motors are very quiet. He’d say, it’s the only motorcycle you can start and not wake the baby — and there was always a baby around.”

He and his sons made a trip to Germany with motorcycles. And, in early April each year, they’d camp in the New Hampshire woods when it was still quite cold. “They called it the Frosty Nut Conference,” said Ms. Hanrahan with a hearty laugh.

“He would take all of us camping,” she went on. “We had a truck camper on the back of a pickup, with a tent for the overflow.”

A lifelong archer in the Iroquois Rod and Gun Club, Mr. Hanrahan took the top archery prize in his division of the New York State Senior Games. “He made several bows,” said his daughter. “He was strong, even into his later years.”

She remembers, as a child, that her father would bow fish, a method of fishing she said the Indians used. “The prime thing is to make sure the arrow is attached to a string so you can pull the fish in.”

In his later years, Mr. Hanrahan built a house in Altamont on Westfall Road. “It was a smallish house where he could be alone,” said his daughter. “He was good at being by himself. He appreciated solitude. … He dug a pond on the property. He made it a peaceful place.”

Mr. Hanrahan made all the furniture and all of the cabinets for his Altamont house. It had a woodshop, of course.

“He would fix things for us and make things for us,” Ms. Hanrahan said. He made her a set of doors to match the cabinets in her house. “They were so precise, the guys who worked on my house would not hang the doors; if they were off a little, it would have ruined the doors.”

Mr. Hanrahan remained vigorous until he suffered a crash on his motorcycle at age 87. “He was riding his BMW to see his sister in Guilderland,” recalled Ms. Hanrahan. She lived near the intersection of routes 20 and 155.

“He was always a really careful motorcycle rider. He always wore a proper jacket, helmet, and gloves. He stopped at the light there. When it turned green, he had the right-of-way and he started to go. An 18-year-old on a bike ran the red light and knocked him over. He broke his foot and ankle.”

Mr. Hanrahan was lying in the road when police arrived. They were surprised, she said “when they took off his helmet and saw a shock of white hair.” An ambulance and a tow truck were called. Mr. Hanrahan insisted, “No, I’m going to ride my bike back home.”

Ms. Hanrahan went on, “He rode back to Altamont with a broken foot.” While Mr. Hanrahan’s foot eventually healed, she said, “He had PTSD from the accident, and never came back mentally. It was just kind of tragic.”

Until then, she said, “He was a really vital person. He’d ride his bicycle six miles a day in good weather.”

She concluded of her father, “He never wanted to draw attention to himself. Just wanted to live the good, quiet life in the country there in Altamont.”

She concluded of his work, “He really thought things through. He made things that were beautiful but were also functional and practical.”

****  

Edward V. Hanrahan is survived and missed by his seven children: daughters Lynda Hanrahan of Syracuse, Deborah White of Windsor Locks, Connecticut, Diane Hanrahan of San Antonio, Texas, and sons Robert Avisa-Hanrahan and his wife, Marri, of Albany, Thomas Hanrahan of Altamont, Brian Hanrahan and his wife, Robin, of Red Hook, New York, and Jeffrey Hanrahan of Sacramento, California, as well as 10 grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, many nieces and nephews, and his friends.

His three sisters and their husbands died before him: Ruth Shannon and her husband, Al; Carol Crook and her husband, Joe, who had lived in Albany; and Mary Collins and her husband, Rip, who had lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Honoring his wishes, no services are planned. His children will host a private celebration of his life at a later date. Online condolences may be left at www.fredendallfuneralhome.com.

— Melissa Hale-Spencer

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