On an August weekend this past summer I took our two grandchildren to visit the nearby Cataldo Mission. We toured the visitor center and museum before visiting the Jesuit Mission that is the oldest building in Idaho, having been constructed by Father DeSmet in the 1830’s.
There were various plaques in and around the State Park with names of patrons but nowhere did I see the name of the gruff, Irish pixie, Hank Day, who led a fund-raising campaign that saved the Mission from irrevocable deterioration and led to its restoration.
Hank, and his friend, Harry Magnuson, were two of the wealthiest people to ever be born into and grow up in the Silver Valley. They both made fortunes with shrewd investments in penny stocks and a canny knack for investing in mines that provided regular returns. In turn, often quietly and with little fanfare, they reinvested in a vast array of civic and community projects.
As Judge Dick Magnuson told the Spokesman-Review in an article on Hank’s passing in the March 22, 1985 edition, “Few are aware of how much he really gave to the community.” The same can be said for the Judge’s brother, Harry.
Magnuson, however, is named on a plaque for being a significant supporter of the restoration project. Hank is not. He was more than content to let Harry get the lion’s share of credit for projects and causes they worked on together.
Saving and restoring the Cataldo Mission was just such a project. Both were devout Roman Catholics and both were financial boosters for Gonzaga University and Gonzaga Prep. Both recognized the importance of preserving the Old Mission as the visible symbol of the Jesuits extensive role in the early history of the inland northwest.
Both also played a critical role in providing Gonzaga University a line of credit that staved off bankruptcy in the early 60’s.
Hank was born on October 4th, 1902 and his first home was up the gulch just outside of Wallace that constituted the community of Burke. When he was five the family moved to Wallace just in time to survive the monstrous and devastating 1910 forest fire that destroyed part of Wallace and consumed hundreds of thousands of surrounding acres of forest.
Few realized how well educated Hank was. He received his degree in mining engineering from the University of California at Berkeley. He did advance studies in Economic Geology and wrote his thesis on the underground geology of the Tamarack Mine where he worked during a couple of college summers.
His father was a co-founder of the Hercules Mine which over a number of years paid out $200 million to investors. Hank helped found the Day Mine in 1947, and remained an officer and ultimately board chiar until he retired in 1972. One of the bitter moments in his life was when his beloved mine was the object of a successful hostile take-over by Hecla in 1981.
Hank also was a director of the Coeur d’Alenes Company until 1966 when the steel fabricating and mining supply firm was acquired by Jimmy Coulson. During his career, Hank participated in almost all the civic activities going in the area, not to mention his legendary support for the University of Idaho and his fund-raising efforts to establish a College of Mines school at the university. (more…)