Rev. Robert Neil Hansen, 86, formerly of Harmony, died Dec. 29, 2013.

He was born to Nels Peter and Esther Hansen on May 15, 1927. He grew up in Greenville, Mich. His early years were formed by his family's membership at St. Paul's Lutheran Church, where he was baptized and confirmed.

He graduated from Greenville High School in 1945 as valedictorian. He entered the United States Navy at the end of World War II.

After the war, he attended both the University of Michigan and Dana College on the GI Bill. He graduated in 1949. He entered Trinity Seminary and was ordained as a minister in the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Synod in 1952.

He played on varsity and semi-professional baseball teams as a left-handed curveball pitcher in both high school and college. He passed on a tryout with the New York Yankees after he felt a call to the ministry. But his love of the diamond never died. He continued to play on church softball teams and was an avid golfer into his 60s.

He met his beloved wife, Betty, in the summer of 1950 at a Bible camp in Iowa. They were later married in Chicago at Golgotha Lutheran Church in 1952.

He served congregations in Wisconsin, California and Minnesota, in both Northfield and Harmony, before his retirement in 1992. He lived in Harmony from 1977 to 1992 while serving a dual parish in Granger at St. Matthews Lutheran Church and St. Paul's Lutheran Church.

As the son of a church organist, he was surrounded by music from an early age. As an accomplished baritone soloist, he often sang in church and also performed in local musical and opera productions. He was a member of the Luren Men's Chorus in Decorah for over 30 years. He loved classical music, Broadway musicals and played the bass clarinet in the Harmony Community Band.

After his retirement in 1992, he and his wife enjoyed traveling. He was able to tour with his wife throughout the United States and Europe. He was particularly proud of his Danish heritage and visited Denmark numerous times. They also visited their children in Japan and Alaska. In 2008, they returned to Northfield where they resided at the Northfield Retirement Community.

He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Betty; son, Mark Bach (Kathie) of Seattle; daughters, Lois Hansen (Matt) of Kirkland, Wash., Rebecca Hansen (Ralph) of Minneapolis and Sharon (Stan) Geldaker of Eugene, Oreg.; five grandchildren, Tristan, Morgan, Stefan, Kate and Marta, as well as many close relatives.

He was preceded in death by his only sibling, June.

Continuing his passion for education and research, he participated in the Mayo Clinic's Alzheimer's Disease project and bequeathed his body to the Mayo Clinic and Medical School.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m., on Saturday, Jan. 11, at St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Northfield.