Estimates put the number of people who attended last Friday evening’s fundraiser for Paul Hansut at more than 500. The banquet room at Novellas in New Paltz was filled to capacity with family, friends, fellow law enforcement officers and elected officials who all have crossed paths with Hansut at different stages in his life and career.
Late last year Hansut announced that he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and is presently undergoing an aggressive treatment program at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.
Hansut said he was deeply moved by those who came to support him and his family, calling it absolutely “amazing”.
“The generosity of them digging into their pockets and laying out money was just incredible and I’ll never forget it,” he said. “It gives me something more to fight for. I love my community and thank you so much.”
Hansut initially questioned having a fundraiser for him and his family.
“I was really concerned about it but they said we’re going to do this and move forward. It was incredible, there were people I hadn’t seen for ten and fifteen years,” he said. “It went from there and every aspect of my life was there. I just couldn’t believe the show of support from all walks of the community. It was pretty awesome, it really was.” He noted that about 30 people came from the Marlboro Elementary School community where his wife Gina works.
“The things we’ve done for the community has always been a joint thing; she’ll ask me what do you think about this and I’ll ask her; it’s never been about any kind of accolades, we just did it,” he said. “Being part of a community and giving back was just always second nature, you never thought about it.”
Hansut said his father Robert Hansut [1929-2012] and his father-in-law Daniel Alfonso [1930-2003] were both examples to him.
“They’d give you the shirt off their backs and I pray that spirit of community is alive and well,” he said. “Every time somebody in the town has needed something, Gina and I tried to make sure that we do something to help and never for any recognition.”
At the fundraiser people lined up to speak with Hansut for a few moments. At one point a women approached and laid her hands on him and offered a prayer.
“I’m not sure who she was but the woman was a very spiritual woman and she put her hand on my chest and we did a prayer together and before she left she said I believe the cancer is going to be gone,” he said.
Hansut started his chemotherapy treatments last December and his blood work then showed that his cancer marker was at 2,516 and last Tuesday that number had dropped to 780; “it’s going in the right direction.”
Hansut said the money raised will allow his wife to be with him for another month because she is not working at the moment.
“She’ll be able to be here and help me; I could never have done it without her,” he said.
Lloyd Councilman Lenny Auchmoody said he was proud of the people who organized the fundraiser, saying, “It’s just a wonderful event,” and thanked all for coming.
Fellow Councilman Joe Mazzetti said the event, “is an incredible showing of support to a guy who dedicated his life to helping the community and it was touching to see everyone come out to support him and his family to beat his fight against cancer.”
Outgoing Police Chief Daniel Waage said Hansut dedicated his life to this town.
“He always treated me very well and was very fair and together we were able to bring the Police Department up to where it is today,” Waage said.
Fr. Thomas Lutz has known Hansut and his family for nearly three decades.
“Its extraordinary; only the best of people can get a turnout like this in gratitude for what he’s done,” he said. “We’re praying for a cure and we believe in miracles, but we know these people are here to support him and his family.”
Mike Barbagallo presently works with the K-9 unit with the City of Poughkeepsie Police Department and became friends with Hansut in High School. They worked together for the Lloyd Police in the early 1990s and later were partners for the City of Poughkeepsie Police.
“Paul is very honest, he’s a very good person who would do anything for anyone and doesn’t care who you are; he’ll help anyone out,” Barbagallo said.
Barbagallo said in police work the code 1013 means an officer is down and needs assistance.
“When an officer gets sick and needs help or money, its a 1013,” he said. “This place in New Paltz allowed the community to get here and show their support...This is good for his spirit.”
John Beck said he was happy to attend the fundraiser.
“What a beautiful tribute to him. He’s a great guy, beautiful family and he’s done so much above and beyond for our town and our community on a multitude of levels. May God give him continued strength to fight and win,” Beck said.
Dr. Michael Bywater met Hansut when they watched their sons in Little League. He said Hansut helped his optometry business in 2006 when he was new in town and today his daughter Megan works in his office.
“I hope Paul feels all of the love that this community has for him...this is what small communities can do when one of their member needs help; we give back to those who have served us. All of the hats that he’s worn are coming back to give him the help that he needs.”
Jack Maguire first met Paul through his Dad about 30 years ago.
“Paul and I are from a totally opposite [political] spectrum but he listened to me and talked to me and I have respect for him,” Maguire said. “If you can talk to each other, that’s the whole thing.”
Richard Gerentine became close to Hansut when they served together in the Ulster County Legislature.
“He was Majority Leader for a period of time and he did a great job during a tumultuous time for the county,” Gerentine said. “He is very well respected, very well loved by not only people in his community but also outside the community. He helped people in many aspects of life, from the north, south, east and west.”
Marlboro teacher Frank Taddeo met Paul through athletics, “because his son was a talented athlete and I always had very cordial conversations with him. I developed a nice rapport with him and we’d always touch base whenever we’d see each other. I wish him all the best.”
Dave Plavchak got to know Hansut when he was appointed to the Planning Board in 2011. He said his wife Darlene has the same disease and they came to the fundraiser to show their support, “because it’s a very tough disease.” He said both Paul and his wife are being treated at Sloan Kettering; “if you have that, go there because they’re the best around.”
Fire Department Trustee Stephen DiLorenzo said Hansut, like his father, has always supported the Fire Department.
“We always had this bond and we always invited him to our dinners and he supported us and we appreciated that; I felt good about that,” DiLorenzo said. “I think he always did what was right for the town and tonight is a tremendous outpouring of support for Paul.”
Kate Jonietz, who served as Hansut’s confidential secretary, has known him since their children were in pre-school together 21 years ago. She admires his, “honesty, his humble nature and his giving heart.” She got along well with him at work, “He was very fair and he was a good boss. I’ve only had a handful of bosses and he is at the top.”
Karen McPeck served as the town Bookkeeper.
“Paul is all heart. He will give to anybody what they need. If it was something he could do to help, he would do it,” she said.
Rich Gorres recalled meeting Hansut when he was a Lloyd Police Officer in the early 1990s and knew then that he was a ‘straight shooter.’
“I always liked Paul and just like his father, he told you something you might not want to hear and you might not want to believe but he was always good and did his job. He looked out for the people,” Gorres said.
Rev. John Lynch met Hansut when he was assigned to St. Augustine in 2017.
“He is a man who has impressed a lot of people and tonight when I walked in and saw this extraordinary gathering, I knew this is a testament to a life of hard work and of giving of himself to so many people. It’s obvious that people were touched by him.”