He has spent most of his life fighting to protect and serve the people of his community; but now, at age 56, Paul Hansut, one of Highland’s native sons, is facing a different kind of battle: one for his life.
A veteran police officer — first for the Town of Lloyd, and then the City of Poughkeepsie, where he became a detective — as well as a two-term Lloyd supervisor until just this past December, Hansut was ready to take a step out of the political arena and enjoy just being a rank-and-file citizen and family man again. Just as he began a new job in security for Vassar Hospital and was enjoying some respite from the demands of running the town, Hansut was diagnosed with an aggressive form of pancreatic cancer. According to his longtime friend and former City of Poughkeepsie police partner, Mike Barbagallo, “He had to quit his job because he’s having to undergo intensive chemotherapy in the City, and we put out a code 10-13, which means ‘Officer needs assistance.’”
To that end, both the Poughkeepsie and the Highland Police Benevolent Associations (PBAs) have put together a community fundraiser slated for Friday, January 31 at Novella’s in New Paltz. It’s meant to help alleviate some of the financial stress this situation has put on Hansut and his family, but, as importantly, to show him how much support and appreciation he has from his friends, family and community.
“Paul is just a good guy. He’s fair, he’s kind and he’s always trying to do the best thing for his community, and we want him to know that we’re there for him this time around,” said Barbagallo, who went to Highland High School with Hansut and served in the Lloyd Police Department with him. “He talked me into coming over to Poughkeepsie with him, where we worked the Main Street beat together, and the anti-crime task force. He was the best man at my wedding.”
Anyone who knows Hansut knows that he’s a man’s man with a lion’s-size heart, a take-care-of-business attitude and a no-bones-about-it personality. Besides his wife, children and grandchild, no one knows this as much as Kate Jonietz, who has known Hansut since their children were in preschool together, and who served the town as the confidential secretary to the supervisor at Hansut’s request when he was first elected in 2012.
“We came into office together, and over the years have become close friends,” said Jonietz, who is one of those people who has just walked alongside him as he faces each day and tries to put his best self forward. “He’s one of the most generous people I’ve ever known, and he’s someone that naturally just does things for people without ever wanting to take credit for it. He also has this incredible ability to listen and is always there to talk to. As supervisor, he had an open-door policy. It didn’t matter who you were or how big or small your concern or question was, he was there to listen and to do what he could to help answer your question or get your problem resolved. He has a certain type of integrity that you don’t find in politics very often. He’s someone I hold in such high regard and am so lucky to have as a friend.”
Besides facing the often-ravaging effects of chemotherapy and the cancer itself, there are the emotional impacts that a diagnosis like this can have on the mind and the spirit. “I think, honestly, the most overwhelming thing for Paul is going to be to allow people to give back to him. It takes a lot of humility to accept that support, but that’s what our community is all about,” Jonietz continued. “When I first found out, we just sat in his kitchen and cried. Those first few weeks were very hard. But he has his family and his faith, and he’s working on trying to find positive things in each day. He’s still the same Paul. He just has a new normal that changes day-to-day.”
The PBA has had tee-shirts ordered that display the Town of Lloyd Police badge as well as the City of Poughkeepsie Police badge and the words, “In this family, no one fights alone,” with a thin blue line separating the two lines. Everyone is encouraged to attend the fundraiser on January 31 from 5 to 10 p.m. at Novella’s in New Paltz. The tickets cost $30 and include a free beverage and food, and there will be dozens of raffles and door prizes as well as the tee-shirts to “help Paul and his family with the burden of these medical costs,” said Barbagallo. All proceeds go to the Hansut family.
According to Jonietz, Hansut has chemo scheduled for that day, but will be coming to the event on his way home. “It’s great if people can come to the fundraiser, but if they can’t, send him a card, donate to a favorite charity in his honor, do something positive and let him know you’re thinking of him. The written word can be so powerful.” So can the support of a community.
For more information on the fundraiser, or to buy tickets or tee-shirts, contact Sergeant Mike Longbard or Officer Mike Barbagallo at firstname.lastname@example.org.