Barry Hanson (1946-2022): Swim coach, businessman and mentor
A quietly altruistic businessman and swimming coach embraced the sport for its character-building potential rather than from a natural gift for the water.
Barry Hanson, who left a background of poverty in his native Liverpool for a prominent business and accounting life in Bermuda, was privately an “average at best” swimmer whose poor eyesight made it difficult to stay on course.
But his passion for coaching came from a belief that swimming “taught life skills – endurance, resilience and being part of a team”, his daughters Rebecca and Zoe told The Royal Gazette.
Mr Hanson helped found the Dolphins swimming club, where he served as a head coach and encouraged young swimmers to push themselves to the limits as a means of mentoring them.
He was the only coach whose voice was powerful enough for students to hear underwater.
His generosity extended to the business world, from developing the Certified General Accounting programme in Bermuda, to private acts of kindness in which he avoided hurting the pride of others, his family said.
A keen athlete, Mr Hanson preferred the teamwork values of sports to the infighting in Bermuda politics – although he donated for many years to both the island’s political parties.
His wife, Liz Hanson, said he believed deeply in fairness, calling him “the most honest person I ever met”.
Along with two daughters, the couple have a son, lawyer Michael Hanson.
Ms Hanson said her husband came to Bermuda as a child from a “dirt poor” upbringing in Liverpool, in which his first experience of swimming came from falling into the fish pond at Chester Zoo.
His father, Pat Hanson, ran a trucking company out of which the company Devonshire Industries began.
Barry Hanson attended Saltus, and struggled at first to adjust to life on the island.
At 16, he nearly lost an arm in a motorcycle accident, and had to be sent back to Liverpool for medical treatment without his immediate family.
Relatives there helped Mr Hanson through the traumatic experience, and he repaid them later with tickets to come and stay in Bermuda.
Like his father, Mr Hanson was an entrepreneur. He went on to chair Devonshire Industries.
He presided over the Bermuda Paint Company, and other roles included a directorship at Watlington Waterworks.
In 1969, Mr Hanson founded the family firm Zobec, an independent accounting and corporate administration business – the name being an acronym of his daughters’ names.
Mr Hanson was also the first president of Certified General Accountants Bermuda, followed by Bruce Wilkie and then Cal White.
The CGA was a labour-intensive Canadian qualification, later uniting with the Chartered Professional Accountant of Canada.
Mr Wilkie said the course covered general accounting, cost accounting, auditing, law, economics, computer science and others with rigorous practical experience.
“Our qualified members filled the highest positions in Bermuda,” Mr Wilkie added. “One was Accountant-General and many others became CEOs and CFOs, treasurers, chairmen and presidents of companies, myself included.”
Mr Hanson offered the CGA course on behalf of CGA Canada when Mr Wilkie signed on in 1968, with Zobec soon managing the course.
He lobbied the Bermuda Government to support the programme, and it was picked up by Bermuda College in the 1980s.
Mr Wilkie said that in its early days, the CGA programme was one of Bermuda’s largest for training professionals.
“All this was possible because Barry and his company, Zobec, made it possible – changing many lives in Bermuda, including mine, for the better,” he said.
The two met in Saltus, worked together in business, and helped develop the island’s CGA programme.
Mr Wilkie added: “He was one of the finest men I ever had the pleasure of associating with.”
Cal White said he was “for ever indebted” to Mr Hanson and the Zobec staff.
The CGA programme was slowed by mailing assignments overseas until Mr Hanson and his company took over administration. He also arranged tutorials.
Mr White said he “vividly” recalled making a pact with other students who had flunked the high-pressure exam.
They decided that if they failed a second time, they would meet on Horseshoe Bay Beach and “have a bonfire using the textbooks as kindling”.
“Barry arranged for a tutor to come to Bermuda to help us with the concepts of taxation, and we all passed the second sitting of the tax examination.”
Much of the cost of the course was taken by Mr Zobec and his firm, he said.
Mr Hanson also supported the Menuhin Foundation, a musical charity for string instruments in which Zobec remains involved.
Family friend Anthony Hayward recalled meeting the Hansons through Mrs Hanson’s nursing at the cancer charity Pals, when his mother was being treated for the disease.
He recalled Mr Hanson giving him a job after learning of his financial hardship caring for his mother, and leaving him in charge of the company building while he was away.
Out of that, Mr Hayward said he became close friends with the Hansons.
“Barry Hanson believed in me, put trust in me like no other person had,” he said. “If there’s any such thing as a perfect relationship, this was it.”
Mr Hanson’s life changed in 2013 when a severe stroke limited his movement and speech.
But his family said his unfailing sense of humour stuck with him to the end.
A celebration of his life is planned for January 6 at 3pm, in Holy Trinity Church in Hamilton Parish.
• Barry Hanson, a business head, top accountant and swimming coach, was born on July 9, 1946. He died December 17, 2022, aged 76.