Ernest H. Hanhart, consulting engineer


Ernest H. Hanhart, a consulting mechanical engineer, died Saturday of complications from pneumonia at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center. He was 84.

He retired in 1986 from Ernest Hanhart Consulting Engineers, the firm that he had established in 1945. Among his clients was the Navy Bureau of Ships, for which he designed a portable hydrogen liquefier and valves for the transfer of liquid hydrogen.

He was a well-known forensic engineer who testified as an expert witness in court cases in which extremely complicated technical matters needed to be explained simply.

"He was one of the few engineers who could speak something else besides the highly technical lingo that engineers generally speak," said his daughter, Martha Lynne Hanhart Finger of Basking Ridge, N.J.

Mr. Hanhart began his career in 1933 at Bethlehem Steel Corp.'s Sparrows Point plant, where he helped design and rebuild blast furnaces, coke ovens and rolling mills.

He also lectured widely on thermodynamics and mechanical design at the Johns Hopkins School of Engineering, from which he earned his bachelor's degree in 1933, and at the Army Chemical Center at Edgewood Arsenal.

He was a member of numerous engineering societies, including the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, of which he was a fellow; the National Society of Professional Engineers; and the Maryland Society of Professional Engineers. In 1976, he received the prestigious Founder's Day Award from the Engineering Society of Baltimore. He had also received the Centennial Medallion for engineering expertise awarded by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

A native of Weehawken, N.J., he moved to Baltimore as a child and graduated from the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute. As a youth, he was a trombonist in The Evening Sun Newsboys' Band.

He often spent vacations skiing and climbing the Swiss Alps and while on one of those visits, Nazi troops occupied Austria.

"One of the stories he enjoyed telling was his escape from the Nazis after they overran Austria in 1938," said the daughter. "He finally made his way out through Italy and boarded the Conte di Savoia [a famous Italia Line ship] in Genoa and sailed for New York."

Mr. Hanhart lived for many years in Woodbrook Village near Pinehurst, where he was active in the community association. In 1989, he moved to the Broadmead retirement community.

He was an Eagle Scout who served as a merit badge counselor for the Baltimore Area Council. He was also active in the affairs of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, where he had been an usher, junior vestryman and junior warden.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. tomorrow at the church, 5603 N. Charles St., Baltimore.

He is also survived by his wife of 53 years, the former Anna May Schall; and a grandson.

Memorial donations may be made to the church.

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