Cover photo for Stephen Read Hanmer, Jr.'s Obituary
Stephen Read Hanmer, Jr. Profile Photo

Stephen Read Hanmer, Jr.

August 15, 1933 — May 18, 2022

Stephen Read Hanmer, Jr.

On 18 May 2022 we lost one of the true Cold Warriors that worked to preserve peace through thoughtful management of nuclear weapons. I credit him as one of the forces that brought down the Soviet Union through his work over the decades to position our strategic resources in a way that preserved peace through ultimate strength. Read was a strong soldier and diplomat and a gentle man who loved his family that extended far beyond his immediate flesh and blood. Our actual family tree is pretty slim because he and Lois were only children, but their house was always filled with the sounds of joy and large gatherings for the holidays. I can’t count how many adopted “aunts”, “uncles” and “siblings” my sisters and I have shared over the years, all because of the way his gentle soul welcomed them into our inner circle.

Born in Denver, Colorado on 15 August 1933 Read was the only son of Stephen Read and Mary Virginia Marchant Hanmer. In his childhood, his father’s Army career had him moving around the world. He spent time in Denver, New Paltz, NY, the Washington, DC metro area and the Philippine Islands. While playing with his cousin Bob Leard in DC, he would meet his future wife Lois Eileen Boteler.

Read graduated from Washington and Lee High School in Arlington, VA in 1951 and matriculated to the Virginia Military Institute from which he graduated in 1955 with a Bachelor of Science degree in physics. At the beginning of his senior year at VMI, Lois saw him at a friend’s wedding and decided that she was going to marry him (he was not aware of this yet). They started dating and before the year was out they were engaged. Shortly after graduation, Read and Lois were married on 25 June 1955. In 67 years of marriage, they never went to bed angry at each other and were models of how to be a happy couple.

Between August 1956 and March 1959 their three children; Susan Eileen Hanmer Alexander, Stephen Read Hanmer III and Sara Lynn Hanmer Black, were born. The family grew to include their spouses; Dan, Lisa and Dennis, four grandchildren and three great grandchildren with one more on the way.

Read took a job with GE right after graduation from VMI, but while fulfilling his six-month commitment to the Army in 1956 decided he would stay and accepted a commission as a Second Lieutenant. He rotated between Fort Bliss and Fort Sill before taking his first overseas post in South Korea where he commanded an artillery battery. Between 1962 and 1964 he attended the University of Southern California graduating with MS degrees in Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering. With those credentials in hand, his next station was teaching those disciplines at West Point from 1964 to 1967. In addition to teaching, he also brought in his talent for singing and helped lead the cadet Glee Club. We have fond memories as kids listening to him strum his guitar and sing rockabilly, blue grass and folk songs. The next stop was the Command and General Staff college at Fort Leavenworth in preparation for a tour in Viet Nam. In the summer of 1968, he took command of the 6th Battalion, 32nd Artillery in Tuy Hoa.

After his return from Viet Nam, Read worked out of the Pentagon and supported both the Army and the Secretary of Defense in managing our nuclear weapon stockpiles. One of his key postings in this period was as a negotiator in the Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction talks with the Soviets in Vienna, Austria in the mid-1970s. He sacrificed advancement in his career to provide stability for his kids to not be changing schools every few years. He retired with the rank of Colonel in 1977.

Between 1978 and 1981 he was with the US Mission to NATO in Brussels, Belgium where he focused on defense planning and the nuclear planning group. In 1981 he was named the Director of Theater Nuclear Force Policy for the Secretary of Defense. In 1984 he became the Primary Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy. (I always loved that mnemonic PDASDISP.) In these roles he was responsible for negotiating with our European allies for the placement of nuclear missiles as a deterrent to Soviet expansion. From 1985 to 1989 Read was involved in the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty negotiations with the Soviets in Geneva Switzerland, achieving the rank of Ambassador and chief negotiator. His Soviet counterparts referred to him as Colonel Ambassador as they valued military over diplomatic rank. During that time his watch acquired a bug as a present from the Soviets. It had disappeared from his dresser one day and returned to the same spot the next. His friends at NSA discovered and disabled the varmint and left it in the watch as a souvenir. Lois would walk around their apartment talking to the lamps saying funny things that might pique the spies who were listening. But during that time, he gained the respect of his foes and negotiated a sound treaty to protect peace. In 1989 he became the Deputy Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency continuing his effort to reduce the threat to the world from the use of nuclear weapons. During these years, Read was appointed to his positions by three different Presidents.

After 1993, Read worked as a consultant to the president of Kaman Sciences Corporation and was a lecturer at the National Defense University and around the world on topics of nuclear proliferation and keeping nukes out of the hands of terrorists. He officially retired in 1998 and took some time to relax, visit with the many friends he had accumulated over his life, travel for leisure and spend time with family. He really enjoyed daily visits to Starbuck’s or Dunkin Donuts and the baristas at their local haunts knew what to prepare as he and Lois entered the shop. He devoted many years to his alma mater, VMI as the Class Agent for the class of ’55 as well as the Board of Advisors for the VMI Foundation. He was also a long-standing member of the St. Andrew’s Society and McLean Post 270 of the American Legion.

His final years were impacted by his exposure to agent orange in Viet Nam. In 2013 he was declared a disabled Viet Nam vet due to Parkinson’s disease brought on by the agent orange exposure. He fought a valiant battle, but it was the Parkinson’s that ultimately took him from us. We all love and miss him, but know that he is in a better place because when he got his wings he was freed from his body that could no longer hold his spirit. As our dear Pam said to me, he is sitting next to Sara watching Redskin games and in heaven the ‘Skins never lose.

Services will be private.
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