XENIA — Whether restoring order at Greene County Parks & Trails sites or restoring classic cars, GCP&T Ranger Sgt. Darrell Hannah has discovered a way to fit both into his life.
“Restoring cars has always been part of my life,” Hannah said. “My dad was a mechanic and ran hot rods in the 1950s and 1960s. My brothers and I grew up around a garage.”
Hannah has been restoring his own cars throughout the years; his first restored car was a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro that he eventually traded for a 1970 Plymouth Roadrunner.
“I gave that car to my younger brother Mike when he got his driver’s license just before for I left for the Navy,” he said.
Hannah joined the GCP&T Ranger Division in 2010 as a reserve ranger and joined as a full-time employee in 2011; he was named a sergeant in 2018. He has also served in the Navy, as well as the Army and National Guard for 31 years, and will retire in April 2019 after multiple deployments.
He first thought about being a ranger when he was a boy scout and attending summer camps. His interest deepened after spending several vacations with his children in national parks out west. There he learned rangers play a vital role in making sure park visitors enjoy their outdoor experiences.
According to Hannah, “I have the rangers of Yellowstone and Glacier National Park to thank for the work I get to enjoy today.”
After returning from deployment to Iraq in 2008, Hannah decided it was finally time to act on his wish to become a park ranger. He began attending Hocking Technical College just a few weeks after unpacking his military gear and graduated from the National Ranger Institute in June 2009. One year later, Hannah was sworn in as a reserve ranger with GCP&T.
As a GCP&T Ranger for more than 8 1/2 years, Hannah has had some interesting experiences in the parks including finding a 12-year-old runaway boy from Cedarville in Yellow Springs who was riding his bike to Minnesota, an injured Great Horned Owl that was taken to the Glen Helen Raptor Center, and an alleged six-foot python snake at the Narrows Reserve.
“Some park visitors had the snake in a backpack — and I really don’t like snakes. I called in Chief Ranger Brady Smith who owns snakes and he identified it as a native Black Rat snake — and not a python.”
When Hannah isn’t busy in the parks, you are likely to find him in his garage with his head under the hood of a vintage car.
Hannah is currently restoring a 1970 Dodge Challenger including rebuilding the motor and transmission, interior work and exterior painting.
“It’s so awesome the first time a rebuilt engine starts,” He said. “It gives me a great feeling that brings back a bit of history when restoring a car.”
Restoration work brings satisfaction and memories to Hannah.
“It’s something I can do in my off time. I really enjoy restoring older cars. It reminds me of my teenage years and of the time I spent with my father. These days, it’s a way to connect with my brothers, Ed and Mike, who love cars as much as I do” he said.
Hannah and his brothers frequently travel to car shows with their cars.
Car shows, he said, allow those who restore vehicles to be recognized for their workmanship and commitment to reviving valuable relics from the past.
“It’s a skill and art you don’t see too much anymore,” Hannah said. “It’s dying out. Car shows allow younger people to hopefully get excited and get involved. They are social events for those who restore the cars and for those who come to see the cars.”
Hannah has been instrumental in planning GCP&T’s Caesar Ford Summer Fest Car Show that will be held 12-2 p.m. Saturday, June 1 at Caesar Ford Park, 520 S. Stringtown Road, Xenia. All cars can register on-site for free starting 9 a.m. Entry is free to view the cars.
The next car on Hannah’s restoration list is a 1969 Mercury Cougar, and his father’s 1983 GMC pick-up truck. His dream car would be a 1968 Ford Mustang Fastback.
“It’s the car Steve McQueen drove in the movie, ‘Bullet,’ “ he said with a grin.