Wherever he went, Michael Hance had a knack for making friends.
That’s why it was no surprise when a video surfaced of the NYPD officer and Bethpage resident dancing in uniform at the New York City Pride Parade in 2015, his family said. The video quickly went viral.
“He was the life of the party,” said his brother Peter Hance, 45, of Bethpage.
Hance, a 17-year veteran of the NYPD and 9/11 first responder, died Sunday in Plainview after being hospitalized with brain cancer, his brother said. He was 44.
Michael Hance was born Feb. 2, 1973, the third of four children. He attended Bethpage High School and later got a GED, his brother said. He attended Nassau Community College and SUNY Binghamton before joining the NYPD in March 2000, an NYPD spokesman said.
Hance didn’t have much time on the force before the attack on the World Trade Center. Like other first responders, Hance rushed to the scene and was part of a bucket brigade, his family said.
“He loved being a cop and he loved helping,” Peter Hance said.
On a chilly afternoon in November 2016, Peter Hance noticed his brother, a divorced father of two who lived across the street, had collapsed outside his Bethpage home.
Days later, doctors removed a tumor from Hance’s brain and discovered 12 more that later spread to his vital organs, Peter Hance said. After several months of outpatient treatment, Hance collapsed again three weeks ago and was taken to Plainview Hospital, where his condition continued to deteriorate, his brother said.
“He never made it out,” Peter Hance said. “We’re a tight family, it’s very difficult.”
It’s not just the Hance family that’s mourning Michael Hance’s loss. Hance became an online celebrity while working at the 111th Precinct in Bayside Queens, earning him a fan base within the LGBT community.
In June 2015, a group of performers from the Big Apple Softball League walked the New York City Pride Parade route, which Hance was assigned to patrol. One group member, later identified as Aaron Santis, attempted to get a few officers to dance but only Hance, in uniform, accepted the invitation.
The resulting video of the two men dancing went viral, prompting overwhelming media coverage and support for Hance, who was heterosexual, and the NYPD. The original YouTube clip has more than 7.8 million views.
Following Hance’s diagnosis, the Gay Officers Action League began collecting money through Facebook to benefit the family and help bring Hance’s daughter to a Pride celebration. That fundraiser has collected more than $2,000 and another fundraising event to benefit his family is scheduled for March 23.
“We mourn the loss of Officer Michael Hance who passed from cancer & thank him for the many smiles he brought to #NYC & the #LGBT community,” the organization tweeted Monday.
Another fundraiser on GoFundMe set up by a family friend has so far raised $22,000 for the family.
Paige Ponzeka, who filmed the viral video, said she remains impressed by Hance’s gesture, even after two years.
“I’ve always thought it was a an awesome gesture that he did,” Ponzeka, 27, of Astoria, Queens, said. “He’s not a member of the LGBT community and he just did it because he was having fun that day.”
Hance’s family said the dancing scene was emblematic of Hance and his approach to life.
“Doesn’t matter who you are, that’s Michael. He got along with everybody,” Peter Hance said. “He was just an all around great guy.”
Michael Hance is survived by his mother Barbara Hance, 70, of Bethpage; brother Peter Hance and sisters Donna Volpe, 50, of Dix Hills and Laura Campisi, 39, of Copiague. He also leaves behind two daughters, Kaitlyn, 12, and Jenna, 10.
The family is receiving visitors Thursday and Friday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at the Arthur F. White Funeral Home in Bethpage. Funeral services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Martin of Tours RC Church in Bethpage.