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When Dad Dies
Keeping a legacy of faith and love

Most of us would want to offer a tribute to our fathers, to the man who helped to make us the persons we are. Moved by his dad’s death, Joseph Hanneman has done just that in a book called The Journey Home.

Hanneman, 46 years old, lives in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin, with his wife of 20 years (Sue) and their three children, ages 18, 14 and 11. He is a Knight of Columbus member of Msgr. Stanley B. Witkowiak Council 697 and Msgr. Anthony G. Weiler Assembly 1207.

Joseph and David Hanneman share a moment at a family gathering in 1998

Joseph and David Hanneman share a moment at a family gathering in 1998

He spoke to Fathers for Good about his father, David Hanneman, and his own fatherhood.

Fathers for Good: Briefly summarize your book.

Hanneman: The Journey Home is a chronicle of my Dad's last six months of life. The book details his battle with lung cancer and his quiet dignity as he walked his own path to Calvary. I was blessed to be able to be with him during much of this time. Throughout his illness, I had a growing sense that Dad was being led home to God. So many things, especially during his last week with us, pointed toward heaven. At the moment of his death, he left us a beautiful message. I believe it was our small glimpse into Paradise.

FFG: What was the message of your dad’s life and death that everyone needs to hear?

Hanneman: You can boil it down to three words: faith sustains us. Even during terminal illness, pain and seeming hopelessness, my Dad held fast to his Catholic faith. He knew his faith in Christ would lead him home to glory. He told his parish priest, Msgr. Duane Moellenberndt, “I do not fully understand, but I do believe.” I will never forget those words. He clung to the cross in his darkest days. On his last day, we saw how the cross carried him home. His journey home put the Catholic faith in perfect focus for me. It all made sense in a way it never had before.

FFG: How are you passing this message on to your own children?

Hanneman: Our children were with us at Hospice Care during Dad’s final days. They saw firsthand how, with faith as our anchor, death is not to be feared. It helped them cope with the sadness when their grandpa died. Knowing that Christ has a plan and destination for us is a great comfort. I remind my children often that Grandpa Dave’s story is a prime example of why it’s so important to nurture, treasure and defend our Catholic faith.

FFG: Why is it important for a father to live the Catholic faith as an example for his children?

Hanneman: As parents, we are the first and most important teachers for our children. They watch what we do even more than they listen to what we say. I keenly appreciate from my Dad’s life why setting a good example is so important in matters of faith. We attend Mass, participate in the sacraments, help with the Knights of Columbus, teach religious education and do works of charity. I hope the example my wife and I set will give strength to our children, now and far into the future. It is our duty to hand on what we have been given.

For more information about the book, visit: