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Lee Edison (Ed) Hansel, Jr., passed away on October 6th. Ed, or Lee to his friends in Charlotte, was 78 years old. Ed was the son of the late Lee Edison Hansel, Sr. and Miriam Walker Hansel. He issurvived by his brother Jack Hansel and sister Becky Armstrong of Mt. Holly, his sister Patsy Hansel and her husband Jim Govern of Winston-Salem. He is also survived by his niece Camille Farmer and nephew Tim Broome and Tim’s wife Melissa, all of Mt. Holly. He is also survived by five great nephews and one great niece and their children.
As a young man, Ed was intelligent, incredibly hard working, and dedicated to being the best at whatever he did. Consequently, he earned the Eagle Scout award in Boy Scouts at the very early age of thirteen. As a teenager he became United States age group champion in archery for the National Archery Association. As a teenager, he also won the men’s adult overall archery championships for North Carolina, and for the Southern and Southeastern United States.
As a senior in high school Ed was voted by his classmates “most likely to succeed” as well as “most talented.” Unfortunately, after he graduated from UNC-Charlotte with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, problems with his mental health interfered with him keeping a job, and he eventually ended up living on the streets, or “outside,” as he characterized it, in Uptown Charlotte for fifty years. He was violently assaulted in March of 2022. He almost lost his arm and never completely recovered from the injuries he suffered. Heremained in rehab until his death.
Liz Classen-Kelly, CEO of Roof Above in Charlotte included the following in a talk given to a group of Roof Above supporters.
As I prepared for today, my mind kept coming back to the life of a man who was important to me, and I believe important in this community. Lee Edison Hansel, Jr. Perhaps you recognize him [a picture of Ed was projected for the group]. He slept outside on Charlotte’s streets for 50 years, I believe longer than anyone in our entire community. And boy did he walk … He walked up and down South Blvd. All through Uptown. If you wanted to talk to him, you had to be prepared to walk with him, and don’t be fooled by his age, he could walk fast. He always said he was looking for work anddidn’t have time to slow down.
Lee was one of our major inspirations for Roof Above to get into housing work. When we built Moore Place, our first housing apartment community, it was to provide home to people like Lee who had been homeless a very long time. He was one of the first people we invited to move in. Lee’s response to our first and the many invitations to housing that followed was a polite and firm “no thank you.” And I know there is sometimes a stereotype that many people experiencing homelessness don’t want housing. That hasn’t been our experience – if we are offering the right housing opportunity, we find the answer is nearly always yes. But Lee was an exception. … I recall pulling over one day when I saw him walking in South Charlotte. He let me know he was headed to Rome. Rome, GA? I asked? Italy, he responded. I smiled politely, not believing him for one moment. Sure enough, Lee got his passport and a took a trip to Italy….
Honestly, I have a lot of feelings around Lee’s death. I am grateful to have known this remarkable survivor who lived life on his own terms. But there is a question that lingers. It felt palpable as I sat beside his sister and had a chance to say goodbye to him at Novant’s hospice Center. Did we do enough? It is the question that always haunts us with this work.
In lieu of flowers, Ed’s family requests any remembrances be in the form of donations to Roof Above, PO Box 31335, Charlotte, NC 28231.