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Once in a great while, a life-force collides with yours, sending you careening off on a new and unexpected trajectory. That is what happened to parents Hal and Julie Hanson on September 30, 1993.
Jeffrey Owen Hanson (1993-2020) departed this earth on December 20, 2020, repainting Heaven with a vibrant palette of colors—but not before sharing his contagious smile, generous heart and colorful fingerprints on everything he touched.
Born with a genetic disorder, neurofibromatosis, Jeff became visually impaired from a brain tumor (playfully named CLOD) at age 12. But it was during therapy for that tumor that the accidental artist developed a passion for painting, as well as philanthropy. He “just wanted to give back.”
Despite his low vision, Jeff began painting note cards and selling them at a driveway bake sale, “Jeff’s Bistro.” Proceeds were donated to The Children’s Tumor Foundation. Notecards gradually transitioned to acrylics on canvas, and the self-taught artist developed his heavily textured, boldly colored signature style. By age 15, Jeff incorporated his art business, and employed his parents as assistants—unexpected new careers for the emergency physician and marketer parents, Hal and Julie.
Jeff began donating some of his paintings to live charity auctions across the country, with his mission to “change the world through art.” By age 20, Jeff made national headlines when his artwork generated $1 million for charity. And upon his death, at age 27, Jeff had generated $6.5 million for over 200 charities and was on track to give $10 million by age 30. Jeff believed “every act of kindness helps create kinder communities, more compassionate nations and a better world for all—even one painting at a time.”
God had other plans for Jeff’s artistic talents and benevolence, however, when a new brain tumor, diagnosed in October 2020, quickly took his life.
Jeff lived his entire life in Overland Park, KS, and had no formal art training. He attended Overland Trail elementary school in the Blue Valley school district. He transferred to the Kansas State School for the Blind in sixth grade. Jeff attended high school at Horizon Academy in Roeland Park, KS, graduating in 2012.
While Jeff enjoyed a very successful career as an artist, his philanthropic spirit drew even more attention. Jeff was awarded both Young Philanthropist of the Year and Young Entrepreneur of the Year for his efforts. He was a People magazine “Hero Among Us” and appeared on CNN’s “Impact Your World.” In 2011, Jeff won Prudential’s coveted National Spirit of Community Award, for outstanding community service. In 2015, the NASCAR Foundation honored Jeff with the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award, and his inspirational story was profiled on CBS Sunday Morning.
Jeff’s art and philanthropy have caught the attention of many high-profile friends. A wonderful example was meeting Sir Elton John on his Make A Wish night, during treatment for CLOD, at age 14. Rather than ask for something, Jeff handed Elton a check for $1000 for the Elton John AIDS Foundation—money earned selling note cards. An astonished Elton reciprocated with a $5000 donation to the Children’s Tumor Foundation and a first-class trip to a concert in Dubai for Jeff and his parents—part of that new and unexpected trajectory.
Jeff’s paintings hang in the homes of art collectors across the globe, including Sir Elton, Warren E. Buffett, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., John Cena and countless others touched by Jeff’s philanthropic soul and unique style.
Jeffrey Owen Hanson lived by the motto: Don’t let your CLOD define you! Jeff did not want to be known as “the kid down the street with low vision and a brain tumor.” He wanted to be defined as “the kid who gave a million dollars to charity.” He said, “We all have challenges. It’s not the challenge, but rather your response to the challenge that defines you.”
On a more personal note, Jeff was most happy when simply visiting with friends or traveling with his parents. He could not drive a car due to low vision, but loved to just ride along. “You be the wheels, I’ll pay the meals,” he would say. He loved cruises, big hotels and fast food. He always said he had “Gucci taste with a McDonalds palate.” Jeff loved trinkets, fidgets, all stuffed animals, especially Ramone the bear, girls, and a “McDouble Plain, large fries, extra crispy and a large Diet Coke, no ice.” Jeff loved anything purple and said he lived “the purple driven life.” The painting’s not done until the purple goes on!
In addition to his “business partner” parents, Hal and Julie, left to celebrate Jeff’s extraordinary rollercoaster life are his grandfather, Darold Swanson of Red Oak, IA, his honorary grandparents Rob and Debbie Givens, his beloved cousin Heather (“sissy”) Swanson Long, honorary aunt and uncle Colleen and Curt Czupka, Godparents Kirk and Jerra Swanson, and numerous other aunts, uncles and cousins across the nation. Jeff also leaves behind more than 20,000 social media friends and fans around the world that we won’t name here. Jeff was preceded in death by his grandmother, Beverly Swanson, of Red Oak, IA, and grandparents, Harold and Helen Hanson of McCallsburg, IA.
A memorial service with a limited number of family members will be held at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, KS, on Saturday, January 9 at 1 p.m. A live stream of the service will be available for viewing 10 minutes before the service begins at cor.org/memorialsonline
The family requests memorial donations to the Children's Tumor Foundation through a "donate" button at www.jeffhansonart.com
The Hanson family has been deeply touched by the public tributes and many people who have shared the unique ways Jeff’s art and story have impacted their lives and altered their trajectory. The family finds great comfort in knowing that Jeff’s personal mission to “change the world through art,” was indeed accomplished! Well done, our extraordinary and loving son! Your work here is finished!
Saturday, January 9, 2021
1:00 - 3:00pm (Central time)
Church of the Resurrection United Methodist Church
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