2011-08-04 / Obituaries

William ‘Bill’ Hansen

William (Bill) Nelson Hansen, a Mariposa resident and native of Watsonville, passed away July 27. Bill was a man who will be remembered for his quick smile, friendly nature and a heart as big as Yosemite.

Known to friends and family as "Long Ball Willy" for his prodigious blasts on the baseball diamond, he won a home run contest hosted by the San Francisco Giants at Candlestick Park in 1977, winning him a trip to the World Series in New York.

Born six minutes before his twin brother, Bob, on Feb. 3, 1950, in the old Watsonville Hospital, Bill was preceded in death by his wonderful parents, Emily and Gerald Hansen as well as his twin.

After graduating from Watsonville High School and attending Cabrillo College, Bill worked in the lettuce fields of the Pajaro Valley, one of the few “gringos” tough enough to do the strenuous job of cutting and loading iceberg lettuce. In his youth, he had a wanderer’s spirit, traveling for months at a time throughout Mexico and living in Hawaii with his surfing buddy, Eddie Mehl.

He later opened and operated the popular Wooden Nickel and Wooden Nickel Too restaurants in Watsonville along with his brother, Jeff. A great cook, his "Willy Burgers" were a sought after delicacy in Santa Cruz County. Besides his culinary skills, Billy’s personality was a big part of the two restaurants success and good time atmosphere.

After selling the restaurants, Bill worked as a rose broker for friend, Dean Johnson, with whom he often traveled to Cabo San Lucas, Baja California where his fishing prowess required no tall tales.

In 2003, he moved with his wife and best friend, Barbara, from Watsonville to their weekend cabin near Mariposa to live full-time. He enjoyed trout fishing on the Merced River and welcoming friends and family to their mountain hideaway.

Bill was a member of E. Clampus Vitus, The Watsonville Elks and was an original founder of Watsonville’s notorious Royal Order of The Muskrat.

Besides his wife, Barbara, and brother Jeff (Nickie) Hansen, of Dania Beach, Fla., he leaves behind stepdaughters Kristine (Rick) Garbini and Michelle (Chris) Mason; and grandchildren, Brittany, Brina, Margie, Kyla, Garrett and Dylan who will continue to love their “Papa Billy.”

The family asks that donations be directed to Hinds Hospice, 1616 W. Shaw #A-5, Fresno, CA 93711.

Friends and family will gather in September for a celebration of Bill Hansen’s life. The event is sure to be as wonderful as the man himself. Billy, you will be missed.

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