John W. Hasper, 84, of 20 Hughes Street, Belfast, NY and Punta Gorda, FL died unexpectedly after a short illness on Saturday, January 4, 2020 in Bayfront Medical Center, Punta Gorda.
To countless people throughout his life, John was widely known to be one of the kindest gentlemen you would ever want to meet. He became a legislator and politician early in his life when politics was kinder and less divisive, but by keeping to his principles throughout decades of ever-changing political climates, his integrity, honesty, and interest in always doing the right thing helped him achieve significant accomplishments. As a legislator, he always kept the common good in mind and was a man you could trust and who kept his word. He was a wonderful father, grandfather, husband and friend. Throughout his long history of public service, not only to his hometown of Belfast, but also in Allegany County, the Southern Tier, and in the State of New York, it is clear that John Hasper made a profound difference. He was beloved by his family, his many friends and his colleagues, and will be greatly missed. His imprint, however, will be everlasting.
Born November 6, 1935 in Albany, NY, John was the son of the late Lillian Carter Hasper and Burdette John Hasper of Belfast, who both predeceased him in 1985.
After graduating from Belfast Central School in 1953, he went on to graduate from Colgate University in 1957 with a B.A. in Political Science. While at Colgate, he was affiliated with Alpha Tau Omega fraternity, Kinosioni, senior honor society, Phi Delta Epsilon National Journalism Society, and was captain on the rifle team. After Colgate, he went on to Albany Law School, graduating in 1960. It was in Albany that he met Diane Wilson, a nurse in pediatrics at Albany Hospital, who became his wife on July 18, 1959. The new couple moved to Belfast and Diane worked as a nurse at Jones Memorial Hospital and at Houghton College. After their four daughters were born, she worked many years as the Belfast Central School nurse. During the years when the girls were growing up, John founded and served as President of Belfast Realty Development Corporation, was President of Hasper & Dye, Inc. Insurance Company, and also served as Vice President of Walker, Hasper & Dye and as Treasurer of Smith, Hasper & Dye. Further, he was Treasurer of Genesee Valley Home Medical Supply, Inc. He was a senior member of the American Association of Real Estate Appraisers, and was on the Steuben Allegany Board of Realtors, as well as the National Board of Ethics ACAA.
John served his local community of Belfast as a Fire District Commissioner, School Board member, Town Councilman, Town Supervisor and was in the Allegany County Legislature, serving as majority leader for nine years and chairman of the county board from 1980-1986. He served for two years on the Board of Supervisors, was Public Safety Chairman and was a charter member of the County Planning Board. He served as Vice Chairman of the Regional Planning Board from 1970-1982 and was president of the Belfast Betterment Association. He also served on the Fleet Bank Regional Board.
In 1986, he was elected to the New York State Assembly from the 136th District. He represented Allegany, Livingston, and part of Ontario counties. He won reelection to the Assembly in 1988 and 1990, serving until 1992. He often spoke of the tremendous people in the District who were partners in his work throughout the region. A most notable time during this era was when Governor Mario Cuomo and his administration attempted to build a nuclear waste dump in the region, and he, along with countless residents of the 136th District, linked arms to prevent this from happening. It was a tremendous accomplishment for the region.
While in the NYS Assembly, he was the ranking member on the Local Government Committee. He also served on the Environmental Conservation and Transportation Committees. An active volunteer fireman for four-plus decades, he served as co-chair of the Republican Task Force on Volunteer Firefighters.
John served in Governor George Pataki’s administration as the Deputy Secretary of State for Local Governments and Community Service from 1995-2003 where his experience in local government led to his chairmanship of the Local Government Innovation Task Force for Working 2000, Inc., which recommended the consolidation of various state services under one division at the Department of State. He headed six divisions, including the Fire Prevention and Control division where he was in charge of all of the fire teams in New York State. He was proud of his team’s efforts to enhance the 911 system, which still exists today. His work in the Division of Local Government dealt with 16,012 municipalities. The Division of Code Enforcement, which deals with fire and building codes for NY State, underwent major positive changes under his guidance. He also spearheaded a comprehensive program dealing with shoreline development and canals and was involved with the millennium project to put gas lines under rivers. As well, he worked closely with the Governor’s office of Regional Affairs. He was at the command post during the atrocities of 9-ll, helping emergency personnel react to the crisis.
When his wife Diane passed away in 2001 after 43 years of marriage, John was still living and working on Capitol Hill in Albany. After suffering that devastating loss, he remained at work there and often expressed how his work, colleagues, dear friends, and his loving daughters helped him get through those difficult times. This was when he and one of Diane’s dear friends, Lorraine Vienna, began their courtship which led to their marriage. Lorraine had also suffered devastating losses throughout her life including her husband and the father of her children, the late Paul Vienna. The Hasper girls often express how grateful they are that these two wonderful people found each other and have enjoyed happiness together throughout the past 18 years. After his retirement, John and Lorraine, a retired elementary teacher at Belfast Central School, purchased a home in Punta Gorda, Florida, and spent many great years between there and Belfast enjoying visits from all of their children and their many mutual friends, including his best buddy from his Colgate days, Sam Hoagland, and his wife Jerry, who also settled in Punta Gorda for their retirement.
Throughout his life, he was actively involved in the Republican party, serving in many roles, including Chairman of the Allegany County Republican Committee until his retirement in 2008 and as Allegany County’s State Republican Committee delegate for the 149th Assembly District, and as a delegate at National Conventions. Politics was a family affair, as his father, the late Burdette J. Hasper, an attorney and NYS Bill Drafting Commissioner, also served as Allegany County GOP Chair for 18 years. At their Annual Dinner in October, 2013, John was honored by the Allegany County Republican Committee with the “Reagan Award” in appreciation of his many years of dedicated service to the Republican Party and Allegany County.
John was an amazing storyteller and could engage people for long periods of time with his vast knowledge. He was also an enthusiast of hunting, fishing, playing golf, skiing and woodworking in his shop at home. His family spent their summer vacations throughout the years at their beloved Colgate University Alumni Camp on Upper Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks. In recent years, he served as Chair of the College Council at Alfred State College, and also on the Board of Directors at Norstar Bank.
He is survived by his wife Lorraine and John’s three daughters, sons-in-law and ten grandchildren -- Gretchen and Michael Govan and their three children, Harrison, Carter and Gracen of McLean, VA.; Jacquelyn and Stephen Kuno of Hannawa Falls, NY and their four children, Courtney and her husband Ben Burds, Alexander, Hans, and Jacques; and Jennifer and Steven Hall of Canton, NY and their three children, Samantha, Lincoln, and Owen. He is also survived by Lorraine’s children and eight grandchildren who have come to love John as a family member in their lives – Cindy and Tony Lombardozzi’s daughter Natalie; Michael Vienna and his wife Janine and their daughters Jacqulyn and Ashley; Christine and Dave Yost and children Stacy, Andrea and Chad; Nancy Vienna; and Nona and James Johnson and their children Benjamin and Alexander. Besides the many relatives beyond their immediate families, John and Lorraine shared friendships with countless people who have brought great joy to their lives in their retirement years.
John’s daughter Kimberly Ann, and Lorraine’s daughter Cindy Lombardozzi predeceased John in recent years, Kimberly in 2008, and Cindy in 2015.
The family wishes to express their heartfelt gratitude for the expressions of love and support already shown through this difficult time. Memorials may be made, if desired, to a scholarship in John’s honor at Belfast Central School for students interested in public service.
Friends may call Friday, January 10th from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at the Treusdell Funeral Home in Belfast, NY. Funeral Services will be held on Saturday, January 11th at the United Methodist Church in Belfast at 10 a.m. A reception will commence upon the conclusion of the services at the Methodist Church Hall in Belfast. Online condolences can be made by clicking the button below.