OBITUARY: Alice Ruth Hanks, 95, a Fixture at the Indy 500

Alice Ruth Hanks, a resident of Pacific Palisades since 1957, passed away at St. John’s Hospital on October 1 at the age of 95. She was born in LuVerne, Iowa, to William and Molly Hedrick on July 26, 1926.

An October story in Racer magazine noted that “Alice Hanks was the living link to IndyCar’s post-war era, a bridge to its glorious past where she and her husband, 1957 Indy 500 winner Sam Hanks, became the sport’s first celebrated couple.”

Mario Andretti, who won the Indy 500 in 1969, told Racer that Alice and Sam welcomed him like an extended family member.

“No question, there’s something very special there between us, and she knew all this, of course; that’s why every year we gravitated to each other with a big embrace,” said Andretti. “In 1958, 18 years of age, I was in this country three years. That’s when my uncle Louie took Aldo and me to Indianapolis. We sat on the second row, Turn 4, to watch Sam. He’d won Indianapolis and later when we met, I communicated all that to both of them about how much influence they made with me.

“Sam passed away before I came out of the cockpit in 1994, but every year, Alice and I would chat about the times back then, right to the very end with her. We had a very special relationship, and she’s one of the grand ladies of our sport that graced us for our lifetime.”

Alice graduated in 1943 from LuVerne High School and entered A.I.B. College of Business in Des Moines. Upon graduating with a secretarial degree in 1944, she moved to Dayton, Ohio, and worked at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Alice met Sam Hanks there, and they married on July 23, 1947, before relocating to Burbank. With his Indy 500 winnings they built their beautiful ocean-view home in the Castellammare neighborhood. Sam passed in 1994.

Sam had been a very successful professional race car driver, winning the AAA National Championship in 1953 and the Indianapolis 500 race in 1957. Alice was equally ambitious and acquired her Pilot’s License in 1965 and enjoyed flying their personal plane.

At age 50, Alice earned a Brokerage Certificate and was employed at a local bank for 15 years. Upon retirement, she continued to be energetically active and invested in the racing world and served as treasurer of the “Fabulous Fifties Club.” She always felt incredibly blessed with the new people she met throughout her travels.

Alice attended every Indy race until 2018. Her authentic presence and infectious smile was pure light and she carried herself with genuine poise and humble dignity. Her extraordinary beauty will forever grace this world.

The Racer reported, “Subsequent to Mr. Hanks’ death in 1994, Mrs. Hanks’ passion for IndyCar remained undiminished as she continued to make annual trips to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway where her evangelizing and educational efforts with each new generation of drivers, crew members and team owners made permanent impressions.”

A.J.Foyt, who won Indy four times, told Racer: “She was a really nice lady. She and my wife, Lucy, were good friends, too. Her husband, Sam Hanks, won Indy and was a good driver. Alice never seemed to age. She was just as beautiful now as she was when Sam won the Indy 500. I had good memories with them.”

Alice is survived by one of her three sisters, Lois (Harold) Rost, and one brother-in-law, Dale (Red) St.John of Fort Dodge, Iowa; four nephews, three nieces and one great-niece. Her deceased sisters are Marjorie (Merlon) Baker and Phyllis St.John.

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