Longtime community doctor Peter O. Hansen died on March 25 from struggles with mesothelioma. As one of the central peninsula’s pioneering physicians, Hansen’s love for his community was reflected in his years of service as a medical practitioner and his efforts to develop the City of Kenai.
Hansen was born in 1938 in Spokane, Washington, and graduated from the University of Washington Medical School in 1963. Hansen relocated to Kenai in 1967 with his wife Karolee and their three young children. At the time, the area had no doctors or hospital.
Using medical equipment he brought with him from when he practiced in Juneau, Hansen worked to directly respond to the needs of what he called a “Boom Town, with camper trailers and tar paper shacks on nearly every block.” The eventual expansion ofhis store of medical equipment is what Hansen strove to display through the development of the museum.
“I now have enough antique medical equipment to fully equip a one room cabin which I would like to do, with educational displays showing people what my medical practice was like 50 years ago,” Hansen wrote in a letter to the City of Kenai expressing his support for the project.
As the only physician in town, Hansen offered a wide range of medical services for area residents. In addition to taking ambulance calls in his office and developing his own x-ray facility, lab and surgical room, Hansen set fractures, worked in physical therapy and delivered more than 200 babies.
Hansen’s legacy as a medical care provider in the community will be further preserved with the development of the Kenai Bush Doctor’s Historic Cabin museum in Kenai, which was made possible by a $103,000 donation from Hansen and the Kenai Community Foundation in 2019.
That museum, to be located next to the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center, will display medical equipment Hansen acquired during his time practicing medicine in Juneau and on the Kenai. An obituary submitted to the Clarion says Hansen was “actively putting finishing details” on his vision for the cabin’s interior when he died.
Peninsula Community Health Services threw Hansen a retirement party in 2018 at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center, which was well-attended and saw him awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to the community.
Hansen’s presence will continue to be felt throughout the community. He is responsible for organizing the first Kenai River Marathon, which now happens annually and is used by some runners to qualify for larger events, like the Boston Marathon.
Twin parks in the City of Kenai are named for Hansen’s deceased sons and are emblematic of Hansen’s passion for the Boy Scouts of America.
Erik Hansen Scout Park, which is located at 913 Mission Ave. in Kenai, was the 1997 Eagle Scout Project of Scout Chris Walker of Troop 357. The park property was donated by Hansen and Karolee in honor of their son, Erik, who became a Boy Scout in 1982 and was also a member of Troop 357. Erik died at age 32 from brain cancer. Hansen, who was a lifetime scouter and an Eagle Scout, also served on the Western Alaska Council Boy Scouts of America Board of Directors,
Leif Hansen Memorial Park, located at 10959 Kenai Spur Highway, is named for Hansen’s son, Leif, who died in 1986 in a drowning accident in Seward. Kenai Parks and Recreation Director Bob Frates said Monday that Hansen had a vision for the land the park now sits on to serve as a memorial park where people can go to remember and honor their loved ones, including veterans.
The city formed a Memorial Park Planning Committee in 1987 that designed the park. Since then, sidewalks have been added to accommodate the purchase of memorial plaques and a fountain, for which the Hansen family donated the necessary funds.
The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday honored the achievements of Hansen in a commending resolution, which was introduced by Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce and passed unanimously during the April 6 meeting. Council members Kenn Carpenter and Bill Elam signed on to be co-sponsors during the meeting.
A Celebration of Life ceremony for Hansen will be held at Kenai Christian Church on April 17 at 3 p.m. in Kenai. Those wanting to show their support for the Hansen family are encouraged to make donations to the Great Alaska Council, Boy Scouts of America in Anchorage.