Enjoy living life! No one exemplified this statement more than Thomas W. Hanson, 70, founder of Zorbaz Restaurants, who passed away Friday, August 14, 2015 after a long battle with cancer. Tom was born July 24, 1945 to Carole Lind Hanson and Eugene Hanson, and spent his early years "walking up hill to and from" the country school he attended on the southeast side of Lake Melissa. A participant in both hockey and football during his school years, Tom graduated from Detroit Lakes High School in 1963, and went on to graduate with honors from Minnesota State University Moorhead in 1967. Tom taught and coached debate and drama for four years in Detroit Lakes, until 1973. But Tom's love was business, and he entered the restaurant business full time in 1969, opening the first Zorbaz while he was still teaching. Tom and his wife of 46 years, Terry Jo, were married on Aug. 20, 1969 in El Segundo, Calif. Together they operated restaurants in California and Minnesota. Through the years they continued to open Zorbaz in the lakes area. They branched out to include The Fireside and Hotel Shoreham in the last few years. Son Cole became CEO of Zorbaz, The Fireside and Hotel Shoreham in 2006. We just witnessed nine years of an individual's will to live. There was never an "Oh, why me," but rather, "How can I beat this? I will do whatever it takes." Complaining was not in his makeup. "Solve the problem," he would say. Go ahead and tell him the problem, and he would gladly give you his opinion, but that was it. Some think about doing things, some talk about doing things, but few do them. Tom got things done. Outside of his restaurant business, Tom tirelessly worked on community activities, including the Pizza Masterz Golf Tournament, Pizza Masterz Park and most recently, the Detroit Mountain Recreation Area renovation and rejuvenation. Tom, along with longtime friend and business partner, Mike Gunderson, owned and operated Hangun Properties, a real estate investment company with properties in Minnesota, South Dakota and Arizona. Tom loved sports, watching college and professional athletes on TV. Tom was an avid golfer, maintaining memberships at five different clubs. Tom was also known to make a wager or two on a sporting event. Tom lived his life to the fullest. Family - especially his grandkids - meant everything to him. He will be missed. Tom is survived by his wife, Terry Jo; sons, Cole (Ellie), Kevin (Tara) and Kane (Randi); seven grandchildren, Mia, Libby, Cash, Zoey, Briggs, Merit and Hayes; a sister, Barb Jansen; and brother, Gary Hanson. He was preceded in death by his parents, Carole and Eugene; and an infant son, Casey. A celebration of Tom's life is planned for Thursday, Aug. 20 from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Detroit Country Club.

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  1. My sympathy for the family of Mr. Hanson. He was my teacher in DL High. Such a very nice man, great teacher, made being in class fun, and made us laugh through things we had to do in class. Happy Trails to you Mr. Hanson.

  2. I send my condolences on Tom’s death. He was a great citizen of Minnesota and particularly the Minnesota lake region near Detroit Lakes. I considered Tom a friend. Although I am an older neighbor on Lake Melissa, I did occasionally see Tom. Some years ago we sat next to each other on an airplane trip. We had a wonderful conversation. Tom lived a great life and leaves us all who knew him with wonderful, warm memories.
    With sympathy, Myron H. Bright

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