Tag Archives: Navy

‘Radar’ Hannigan keeps our family on target

Papa and the grands on Father's Day 2014.

Papa and the grands on Father’s Day 2014.

His Army nickname was “radar” because of the way he could hone in on ball almost anywhere on the field and snatch it up in time to throw it across home plate.

I’ve watched him in action through more than three decades now—in his twenties, his thirties, his forties, his fifties. Though he’s less inclined to chase balls in the outfield, and he’s traded his bat for a nine iron—his laser focus to detail hasn’t waned.

John Hannigan is, as usual, right on target.

I was thinking of this as we celebrated his 58th birthday June 14 watching the Houston Astros beat the Tampa Bay Rays before celebrating with contemporary Christian artist Bart Millard, lead singer of Mercy Me.

My husband must be the source of my son’s affinity for the expression, “ah-ma-zing!”

Just a child of seven when his mom died in 1963, he quickly “manned up” as the eldest of an eventual six siblings before joining the Army at age 18.

Promoted through the infantry, he was known for driving, sharpshooting and logistics. By the time I met up with him he had already served in Germany and the Washington D.C. area, and was a rising star at National Security Agency (NSA) taking a refresher course in Texas.

God had a plan in mind. An Army Sergeant with an eye on a Navy Seaman isn’t supposed to fly—but we were on an Air Force base in San Angelo, Texas anyway. So since everything’s bigger in Texas, God went big. He decided we needed to be together and John made his move.

Just a few weeks later, we tied the knot. I have never regretted that decision. I was 19, and he was 24. Nearly 34 years later we are still open to God’s direction – and when people ask why we have moved around so much, my answer is simple—military, ministry, and education.

We began the journey from fulltime military to ministry nearly 30 years ago when John left active duty to pursue a call to church administration and education—and spent nearly half that time preparing for ministry. Since 1986 he earned two undergraduate degrees and a seminary graduate degree. He has pastored a few small churches, been on staff of a few medium size churches and more recently served as business manager for a state Baptist newspaper for more than a decade.

Of all the changes, however, this last move has been the most bittersweet. It wasn’t a transition prompted by any one thing, but instead was a move made completely by choice. I believe it was God’s prompting us to act, instead of react, to circumstances that could have quickly led to total burnout.

And for the first time in our 34 years of marriage, it wasn’t completely clear where we were to go. There were no job offers in a particular geographical location, no living arrangements already set up, and no commitments about what I would do next since our children had long since flown the coop. We just knew things had to change and because we had pledged to “finish strong” we left ourselves with few opportunities to plan ahead for the future.

Throughout the long afternoon on John’s birthday, watching the pitcher get ready to throw out the ball, I thought of how much we had grown comfortable with living in the same city, going to the same churches, driving though the same neighborhood, shopping at the same stores, and frequenting the same dry cleaners this past 12 years. I thought of the various doctors and lawyers and leaders and law enforcement personnel we met. I was struck by how much we cultivated relationships with staffs at certain restaurants, salons, and other service industries.

And then I thought of how easy it was to ignore the obvious. I don’t believe the choice we made to leave Florida was easy—but it has been a blessing to be able to reflect on what a gift it was to have been given so many opportunities and to build so many relationships while we were there.

And through it all, I have grown to appreciate John more than he will ever realize. Yes, he is willing for us to trust God more day-to-day so that we can spend more time with each other and with our family.

He is laser focused where it matters.

Did I remember to pack bathing suits? Does our granddaughter have her pacifier? Does our grandson need a new baseball glove? Do I need to teach our granddaughter to sew? Have I thought about a shower gift for our newest granddaughter? Do we have a date yet for our daughter’s wedding? Did our son call?

Yes, the world goes on. I have important communication-related assignments and I don’t think God is finished with me yet in that realm—but it’s John’s laser focus that helps keep me on top of it all.

It took only a few weeks of living out of suitcases to come to a conclusion that we would commit to living in Houston for this time in our lives. He is working from home and I have hung my shingle as the owner of “Intro,” a communications company providing editing, writing, photojournalism, and social media services.

It doesn’t take much to make Papa happy. Two great kids, a wonderful (and very pregnant) daughter-in-law, three adoring grandchildren, and a soon to be son-in-law who spends time with him on the golf course.

At the Astros game Saturday celebrating Papa’s birthday in a box overlooking the stadium, a treat our son John III planned—my heart was happy to see the family having so much fun.

And then, we realized that God had something even greater in mind. Bart Millard and Mercy Me were in the suite right next to us. Not long after our daughter, Belinda, realized this, Bart and the entire band stepped over into our family picture—and wished John a happy birthday.

It is a moment in time we won’t forget. During the concert, listening to the well anticipated, “I Can Only Imagine”—I thought about an evening years ago in my tiny kitchen in Germany when the children were young and how I thanked God for my husband and my life. I could never have imagined how blessed we would be.

Watching them all at the game, still thanking God for my husband some thirty years later, I could never have imagined my life with my wonderful husband who is a great father and a beloved grandfather.

I love you John Hannigan. I hope you had a happy birthday and a happy father’s day.

John C. Hannigan is the CEO of Hannigan Companies, LLC a business support company assisting Sonova Systems LLC. He holds the Master of Arts in Christian Education (church administration) degree from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Kansas City, Mo., 2000; and a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal studies (business) degree and a Bachelor of Religious Education Degree from Hannibal LaGrange University (Hannibal, Mo.), 1989. He retired from the United States Army Reserves in 2000 as Sergeant First Class and is a disabled American veteran with a service-connected disability.

Joni B. Hannigan is president of Houston-based Intro, LLC. She is wife to John; mom to John III (Melissa) and Belinda; and Nana to Joey, Madelyn and Elizabeth. Joni holds the Master of Education degree from Park University (2000) in Parkville, Mo., and the Bachelor of Science in Education (Secondary-English/Journalism) from Hannibal-LaGrange University (1992) in Hannibal, Mo. She was formerly the managing editor of a newspaper in Florida for 12 years, a public high school teacher, a BSU director,  and a veteran of the United States Navy. She and John have been married nearly 34 years. They reside in Houston, Texas.




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Happy Birthday, Mother, and thank you for the letter

Actually, it’s my letter to you, written nearly 30 years ago, but thank you for saving it.

I must have used one of those old electric typewriters at the J.C. Penney store where I worked when I was 18 to write my mother the two-page letter I found a few years after she died. She stored it in a large tin in her hallway with dozens of other letters and cards.

Honestly, I have no recollection of writing the letter. When I read it, I realized I had poured my heart into explaining my reasons for joining the Navy and asked my mother to understand me and trust me in spite of what might have seemed a rash decision.

Looking back, I was shocked to realize that just a month before her death, indeed, I had achieved what I had so clearly indicated I had set out to do.

This morning, not thinking about it being mother’s birthday, I thought about the letter I wrote as I lingered a moment outside the building where I work. It’s been seven years since mother died now, and I thought about the long day I would spend putting a newspaper to bed, and how, in spite of the day-to-day challenges, my life is richer knowing my mother died seeing me fulfill that part of God’s plan for my life.

In the letter, postmarked “Feb. 7, 1980,” I wrote, in part:

“God has a purpose and plan for everyone’s life. It is not necessarily meant that every woman must live at home, get married and go to church. Eventually, if it’s in God’s will, I may do that, but for now, that doesn’t seem to be what He wants for me.

“Mother, I wish you’d understand that I am only 18. I am not planning for the rest of my life, but only a few years. Like that saying, ‘The Navy is not only a job, but an adventure.’ In just a few months, (basic training), I’ll have had my body in shape, my teeth fixed, some training and order in my life, and education in the field of my choice. Also a chance to witness to others, go to church regularly, and to travel.

“Travel and education are among my choices for joining.

How can I ever get enough money to go to a good 4 year college and receive my master’s degree in journalism so that I may have a good career. Even at Bible colleges, and the Southern Baptist Convention Center, in order to teach and write, you must have a degree. Then traveling. I would like to see first hand the countries we discuss in church and Bible study, and the people therein.


“Mother, my idea is to make myself a better instrument for God so that I can serve Him better. … Don’t worry about me. I have and will always have the high morals you taught me, and will take care of myself.”

“I love you.”

Fourteen hours after I first thought of my letter to mother this morning, I walked out of that same building, realizing it was mother’s birthday, if only for a few minutes more. Bent on processing, editing, proofing, designing – I barely had time for food – let alone to dwell on the date. When it hit me with force, I felt as Emily Dickinson once described an individual at a funeral, with “eyes wrung dry.” Though I barely cried, my heart was full and I ached.

Of course I miss mother, but I thank her, too. Because of the need to explain the clear call of God on my life those many years ago – I have a precious reminder that some dreams and goals we may not even remember are instilled in us by the One who created us for this life.

I can tell you for sure I never remember thinking I needed a master’s degree in journalism for much of anything. Not sure where at the “Southern Baptist Convention Center” I hoped to work, but my office at the Witness is located on the fifth floor of the Florida Baptist Convention building in Jacksonville. I did earn a bachelor’s of science in education and a master’s in education degree – and I love to travel and tell stories of missions and missionaries and have been to Brazil and Jordan on work-related trips. I couldn’t imagine painting a more accurate portrayal of what I do—30 years ago.

When I am challenged to forget my calling, to grow weary or faint of heart – the letter is there to remind me I did not choose, God did. “God is the author of things unseen, the substance of things hoped for.” He knew the desires of my heart, even when I did not.


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