Alice Hanson came from a long line of strong, independent role models, "the Trego women" (her mother's maiden name). Her family history was important to her. She was one of two children of Francis and Ruth Brown. Growing up, summers were spent in southern Alberta on her grandfather's farm with her brother Frank, aunts and many cousins.
Alice completed her bachelor's degree at the University of Alberta in 1949. She married Oscar Hanson in 1951, and settled in as a homemaker to raise her children, Chris and Lise. That was until one fateful evening in Vancouver's east side in the fall of 1967.
The family had moved to Vancouver earlier that year for Oscar's work. On that fall night, Alice drove to Vancouver's east side to volunteer with a youth group. She met a group of young people who, because of the gang activity and turf wars in their neighbourhood, had never seen the ocean or Stanley Park. This affected Alice deeply. She was angry, and she was intent on doing something about it. This simple incident launched her career in social justice.
The following summer Oscar's work took the family back to Edmonton, where Alice was drawn to the inner city. She worked tirelessly for more than 20 years doing what she enjoyed most - improving the quality of life of those whose lives had been forgotten.
Alice was instrumental in the success of the Boyle Street Co-op, co-founded the Boyle McCauley Health Centre and was the director of Distinctive Employment Counselling Services of Alberta. Alice then came to the conclusion that the only way she could achieve more for these people and the inner city was to run for public office. In 1993, she was elected to the Liberal caucus and appointed the social-services critic in the Alberta legislature.
Alice only served one four-year term in government as she felt the squabbling within caucus didn't allow work that needed to be done to get done. She continued federally, representing Alberta on the National Council of Welfare. Her diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease and subsequent decline forced her retirement in 2002.
Alice was a rare combination of style, wit, commitment and compassion, and she had a generous view of people. If the opinion of a person was being voiced negatively, she would counter with a classic Alice remark, "You know, I'm really very fond of that person," silencing all critics. As a mother, she offered absolute and unconditional love and support, always allowing her children to revel in their successes and learn from their mistakes. She never lectured them but her expectations were well known. She is deeply missed by her family and friends.
Lise Niddrie is Alice's daughter, and Chris Hanson is Alice's son.