In Memoriam

imageThis Online Exhibit is dedicated to the memory of Ernest Hansen (1911-2006) and Mary Gemelli Hansen (1910-2005).

Ernest Hansen was a master machinist. He held the patent for the first motor-driven ice shaving machine (2515923), a pulley-style clothes line (2448310), and more.

Mary Hansen (née Gemelli) was the daughter of Onofrio Gemelli, who ran a successful produce store chain. When they first met, Ernest knew there was something special about her.

After an eleven month courtship, Ernest and Mary were married on November 16, 1932. The got married at St. Alphonsus Church with a reception at the Jung Hotel. It was a "rainbow wedding" (all of the bridesmaids wore two-toned dresses) and was the most talked about wedding of the year. For the Hansens' 50th anniversary, their sons threw a party at Gallier Hall with over 200 guests. Read more about their courtship, wedding, and anniversary.

In 1934 Ernest invented the ice shaving machine so that his child, Ernst Jr, could have a clean snoball. Mary, an amazing cook, created syrup recipes that are still used today. Mary wanted to share her snoballs with the rest of the city and so she opened up shop under a Chinaball tree on the sidewalk outside of Ernest's mother's house on St. Ann Street. She sold her snoballs for 2 cents, even though most other places sold theirs for a penny. After a short time on Valmont Street, the store moved to Hansen's current location on Tchoupitoulas Street in 1944.

Ernest would help Mary run Hansen's Sno-Bliz after work. For the 30 years after Ernest's retirement until her death they were never apart.

In addition to running the business and making excellent flavors, Mary was known for her kind hearts. She would often give snoballs away to children when it was obvious that they couldn't afford one. She never excluded anyone from the stand, even during the times of segregation.

When Hurricane Katrina made its way to New Orleans at the end of August 2005, Mary was in the hospital and had to be air-lifted out. Ernest was by her side at the time, but was not allowed to evacuate with her. They ended up in hospitals only 10 blocks from each other. Neither one returned to New Orleans after the storm. Mary died on September 8, 2005 at 95 years old. Ernest followed her on March 30, 2006 at the age of 94. They were survived by two sons, Ernest Jr and Gerard, five grandchildren, and a number of great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. Read Ernest's obituary from the Times-Picayune (opens in a new window).

They were married for almost 72 years. Ernest had been known to say that they were the greatest love match since Romeo and Juliet.

Mary bumping into Ernest
Mary bumping into Ernest
How to make a large Sno-Bliz
How to make a large Sno-Bliz
Mary and Ernest Hansen
Mary and Ernest Hansen
Ernest working the machine
Ernest working the machine
The Wedding of the Year: 50 Years Later
The Wedding of the Year
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Snowed in for Fifty Years
Gift Certificate
Gift Certificate
Home movie of Hansen's Sno-Bliz
Home movie
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