William H. Hannon was a Southern California real estate developer known for his generosity to the Catholic community of that area. He graduated from Loyola University in 1937 and was also a Regent Emeriti and an Honorary Trustee to the university. He passed away, at age 86, on 4 November 1999. His legacy is administered by the William H. Hannon Foundation.
Saint Serra was a particular interest of Hannon’s. So much so that he erected nearly 100 statues of Saint Serra across California. The statues are life-sized. There is one at most of the 21 missions as well as many at other locations. One of the criteria for receiving a statue was that the location had to be important to the legacy of Saint Serra. This was often accomplished through an annual essay contest at schools associated with the statue’s location. The foundation continues to sponsor these essay contests.
“I often refer to Serra as California’s first subdivider,” Hannon told The Tidings, the weekly newspaper published by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles. “He picked sites with plenty of water, fertile soil, good foliage and no wind. Today, when people ask me where to buy land or build, I tell them, ‘Build anywhere within five miles of a mission; that’s where the land is best.'”
Hannon also started a California tradition: Rub the toe of Saint Serra for luck; much like the Irish kiss the Blarney Stone and Chinese rub the Buddha. So, when you find one of the Hannon Serra statues, don’t be afraid to walk up to it and rub the toe. It’s what Bill Hannon would have wanted you to do. [Side note: The toe rubbing information comes directly from Bill Hannon. I attended the dedication of the statue at the Santa Inés Mission and he made a point about this during his dedication speech and rubbed the statue’s toe by way of punctuation.]
If you need to contact the Hannon Foundation please visit their Website: