An Officer And A Gentleman

By Janice Hall


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MARCH 2007 EDITION OF SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VICTORIA BC

Hans Frederiksen values the personal touch. On his birthday each year, he visits Streetlink Emergency Shelter with a supply of his favourite Danish dessert.

A natural storyteller, he enjoys invoking the names of celebrities with whom he has chatted as casually as neighbours. He reads only newspapers.

"I'm interested in everyday life, the political implications, anything that happens around the world. I like to know what's going on everywhere - what's going on in my community," he says.

Hans was born in Sonderborg, a small town in southern Denmark in 1946. Shortly afterward, his father moved his business to a town 40 kilometres away, where Hans remembers the fun of hooking up his sleigh behind the horse-drawn wagons of the garbageman, milkman and freight deliveryman. He and a friend got into trouble one day, riding their bicycles out onto the snow-covered ice of the Baltic Sea. People yelled at them to return to shore.

An uncle immigrated to the United States in 1918 and settled in Akron, Ohio, which ignited a desire for change in four of his brothers. They left Denmark for

Canada and settled on Vancouver Island.

Hans' family made their new home in Port Alberni where a Danish couple helped his father find a job.

For a while, Hans, then 10, was regarded as an outsider.

"It was difficult... They called us immigrant kids. We were all called DPs [deported person(s)] in those days. There were some teachers who didn't appreciate immigrant kids [while] others embraced us," he recalls.

He attended a special class to learn English, one of 35 students from all over the world - China, India, Poland, France, Germany, Denmark, Holland, and Korea - before being integrated into the school system. The "language problem" delayed his schooling by two years. At home, his family never spoke Danish. "It was always about being Canadian, not anything else."

After high school graduation, Hans got a job at Simpsons-Sears. He moved to Victoria in 1968 to sell floor coverings and furniture at the Sears store in the newly built Hillside Centre.

In the spring, he travelled across Canada with a friend, then spent nine months in Denmark, selling bicycles to English-speaking customers in a shop in Haderslev, while getting reacquainted with his grandmother.

He left the uncertainty of a "commission job" when, two years after his return to Canada, he became engaged and then married Rosemary.

After a few years working for the B.C. Forest Service as "an office boy at the tender age of 25," he was hired as one of the province's first 100 sheriffs.

Hans loved the job.

"We were the neutral party between the courts and the police and the correction system. We took care of moving prisoners between the court and the jail. We were court security and in those days, we were also the bailiffs."

He remembers the days "when you could count on a con to be true to his word." On duty as a rookie sheriff in 1974, Hans was recognized by one of 14 prisoners as the man married to his wife's former classmate at St. Ann's Academy. When two other prisoners suggested jumping the sheriff to escape, the man, aided by another, told them they would have to go through him to get to the sheriff.

"They were two guys who were up for extortion, kidnapping, bank robbery and I thought, 'they're standing up for me? This is pretty good.'"

Hans believes strongly in Canada's justice system.

"It's better to acquit a guilty person than it is to find an innocent man guilty," he says.

He laughs when recalling a memorable trial conducted before a jury. The defendant was a well-known "kingpin in town." His lawyer had him under examination and "he addressed him as Mr. Heroin, not even thinking about it. The judge stopped everything and sent the jury out… [The client] ended up being convicted, getting a 20-year stint."

Hans retired from his job after 27 years.

"The last 10 years, I was the officer in charge of jury management and the warrant section. I became quite well known for arresting people over the phone.

I'd tell them I [had] a warrant for their arrest and they'd better come and see me, otherwise one of the boys would be out to pick them up. Nine out of 10 people would come in. It became kind of a joke around the office. 'Hans never left his desk. He just picked up the phone.'"

Today, he uses his telephone prowess to help people as a volunteer for John Horgan, the NDP MLA for Malahat-Juan de Fuca.

"I guide them through the bureaucracy. Because of my job, I met a lot of people who are politically, socially business-oriented. I'm a firm believer in 'it's not necessarily what you know, it's who you know.' [I know] how to go through the maze and help people that way."

As an afterthought, he adds, "My phone number has always been in the book and when I was working, my wife told me many times... she'd get a phone call to thank her for me being such a gentleman on the job. That's very satisfying."

Langford - at 2613 Viola Place.  His home phone number is (250) 478-0537 and his cell phone number is (250) 881-4267. He can be reached by e-mail at rosehans@shaw.ca.

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