Cover photo for William Joseph "Liam" Hannaher's Obituary
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1931 William Joseph "Liam" Hannaher 2024

William Joseph "Liam" Hannaher

June 23, 1931 — March 4, 2024

Alexandria, VA

William Joseph Hannaher—or Liam Hannaher as he preferred to be known in solidarity with Irish republicanism and learning Gaelic in the 1970s—passed away on Monday, March 4, 2024 at 6:15 a.m. at Inova Mount Vernon Hospital in Fairfax County, Virginia. He was 92.

Liam was born on June 23, 1931, in Fargo, North Dakota, the younger son of Thomas O’Connor Hannaher and Marguerite Amanda (Hill) Hannaher. Their home was in Moorhead, Minnesota.

Liam started higher education at State College in Moorhead, graduating from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and going on to obtain a master’s from Columbia University in New York City (Radishchev and Soviet Criticism: A Literary Reclamation Project). Drafted into the Army in 1954, after the armistice in Korea but before the first military advisers to Vietnam, he served as an intelligence clerk with the 532d Military Intelligence Battalion in Stuttgart, Germany. After release from the Army in 1956, he studied in Heidelberg but then spent much of the rest of the year unemployed in London. After joining the State Department’s Foreign Service and training in Washington, D.C., his first assignment in 1957 was to the Embassy of the United States in Belgrade, capital of the (then) Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia. Among the clerical employees there of various nationalities whose languages he already knew, he met typist Svetlana Gođevac and resigned his position as head of the visa section to marry her on September 3, 1959.

Returning to the United States upon the birth of their first child and settling in Queens, Liam freelanced as a translator, taught a couple of years at Columbia University, and pursued a doctorate there (The Humor of Stevan Sremac). The arrival of a second son had made a steadier income even more of a necessity by then—the purchase of a diesel Mercedes-Benz sedan in 1967 which the unmechanical Liam had serviced at dealers used to Packard owners hadn’t helped the household finances any despite fuel prices as low as 19¢/gallon back then—the family moved in 1970 after he started with the Foreign Broadcast Information Service, an open-source intelligence component of the Central Intelligence Agency in a building in Arlington, Virginia. There, he translated openly available news and information from media sources in multiple languages for 20 years before retiring. His name appears in Wikipedia for the translation of the novel Bašta, pepeo by Danilo Kiš (which was published as Garden, Ashes in 1975 by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich and again in 2003 by Dalkey Archive Press). Liam rarely showed a creative side (he left his trombone at his parents’ house and could never hold a camera steady) but découpage he did of Orthodox icons applied to wood planks hung along one wall of his home. Whatever hopes he might have had for his children thwarted by their merely passable academic achievements attending in-state colleges and also their largely downmarket tastes, Liam decided to travel more, he and Svetlana visited other parts of the United States and various countries in Europe repeatedly in pursuit of art, architecture, music, and culture. He also volunteered at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. and while he was unhandy around the house he did cut the grass using a reel mower well into his eighties. His shopping at Trader Joe’s was a good fit for that grocery’s founder’s quip that the store was “for overeducated and underpaid people” as Liam philosophically avoided all investment.

Liam was preceded in death by his parents, his wife, and his older brother Thomas Patrick Hannaher. He is survived by his sons Constantine and Stephen (Janice), both of Northern Virginia.

Liam’s family would like to extend their appreciation to the management, staff, and contractors at Paul Spring Retirement Community for the care they provided Liam.

Visitation will be on Wednesday, March 13, 2024, from 3:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M. at Wright Funeral Home in Moorhead, MN. Burial will be on Thursday, March 14, 2024, at 11:00 A.M. at Prairie Home Cemetery in Moorhead, MN.

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Service Schedule

Past Services

Memorial Gathering

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

3:00 - 5:00 pm (Central time)

Wright Funeral Home and Cremation Service-Moorhead

605 2nd Ave S, Moorhead, MN 56560

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Thursday, March 14, 2024

11:00 - 11:30 am (Central time)

Prairie Home Cemetery

8th St S, Moorhead, MN 56560

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