David Henry

Jul 27th 1947 - Apr 28th 2012

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If ever there was a man who acted upon his interests, it was Dave Henry. From arts, crafts, music, and giving his time, he never hesitated putting his whole heart into the things he loved. His giving spirit and generous nature found him to be a helper of people, and bringing a smile to someone's day said it all for Dave. Family focused, he was a sentimental man who knew the value of family and deep rooted friendships. Deeply missed, he will be fondly remembered in the hearts of many who came to know and love Dave's charismatic ways and loving heart. Born in Kalamazoo, Michigan on July 27, 1947, David was the older of two children born to Howard and June Henry. He was later joined by younger sister, Sandra. It was a time of celebration as the end of World War II found Americans ready to move forward and begin anew. The late 1940s introduced many new advances in science and technology, and industry and manufacturing were at all-time highs. David's father worked as a Kalamazoo Police Detective, and his mother at the local juvenile home. As a family they owned and operated the Kiddieland Park across from Milham Park. As a boy, Dave was involved in Cub Scouts and his mother served as his den mother. Growing up near the water’s edge, he loved catching turtles with his cousin, fishing, swimming in the water hole, exploring in the woods and marsh, bringing animals home with his sister (even raccoons), playing with the other children and visiting with his many family members that lived near. His sister would often recall a story of playing hide-and-seek with Dave, being the younger sibling she had often lost. One time, after hiding in the firewood box for many hours, surely she had finally won. Emerging from the ultimate hiding spot, she learned that he had quit looking and had been playing elsewhere for some time! He of course told the story differently! Dave attended the local schools and in grade school was part of a barbershop quartet. Upon finding a new talent in playing tennis, he won a trophy in an inner Kalamazoo City league tournament. He went on to attend Loy Norrix High School where he was active in the choir, band and theater before graduating in 1965. Always nostalgic, one of his fond childhood memories was making chocolate chip cookies with his mother, which remained his all-time favorite snack. As an adult, having kept the cookie sheet that they used together, and often used it to make cookies for himself and others.

During the Vietnam War, Dave enlisted in the U.S. Army rather than being drafted. Still stationed stateside, he earned the rank of Sergeant. While preparing for overseas duty he received word that his father was ill, and returned home before his father passed away. Dave later told his son how much he valued the last few days that he was able to spend with his father. He finished out his service stateside, staying close to his mother.

Dave furthered his education at Western Michigan University, receiving his general business degree. With degree in hand, he went to work for a welding business handling their bookkeeping. Soon after, he met, married and created in instant family with a young woman named Sandy Schneider and her young daughter Tonya, that he always considered his own. Together they celebrated the birth of their son, Robert. Although his marriage to Sandy eventually ended, Dave was forever grateful for his children and loved them both to the very end. Changing careers, he began working for Van Buren County Mental Health, serving at a residential home, a day treatment center, and later as a caseworker in the field and at the Fairweather Home. For a while he also worked part-time in the paint and furniture departments at Meijer. Due to heart issues later in life, he spent the better part of the last decade in retirement as a result of his disability. Even though he never remarried, Dave enjoyed the company of his close friend, Charlene Balch over the past 11 years. Throughout his life, Dave had eclectic, but always creative interests. He began by welding toy soldiers as a boy, and was very talented in everything he tried, and he tried as much as he could. When it came to his hobbies and interests, he wanted to experience it all, engrossing himself in everything he set his mind on. He tried his hand at metal sculptures, ceramics, building shaker style shelves, water colors, oils, poetry, basket weaving, leatherwork, wood cut outs, acrylic painting, charcoal sketches and freehand pencil drawing. Very skilled, he cut his own wood and painted to his heart's content, entering many craft shows to display his work. At times, he even did face painting at these shows. In the late 1980s he even opened his own craft store in Paw Paw, “Creative Expressions”. One thing was sure . . . Dave had wonderful, artistic abilities. With some things, he did not stay attentive with for long, except woodcarving. It was his signature work. He was never far from his knife and a block of wood and if you let him sit idle for too long he would start making “chips” wherever he sat. He enjoyed cutting through wood like it was butter, visualizing what his creation would look like, long before anyone else could see. If someone were to place an object in front of Dave, he would say “I could carve that, let me take it home and make a pattern”. If a person wasn’t careful, their object may disappear, only to reappear later with a wood carved replicate by its side. Dave was a proud member of the Kalamazoo Woodcarver's Guild and could be found sitting among his friends carving where they met at the Portage Senior Center. He always worked to better his ability, regularly asking his family their thoughts on his work; they thought his work was perfect.

Dave gave from his heart. He was generous with his time, talents, and his big heart rarely said, no. He volunteered his time at the Kalamazoo Nature Center, the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission, the Boy Scouts of America, and Oakwood Community Center and at his boyhood church, the Oakwood United Methodist Church where he participated with fundraisers in his childhood to help raise money to build the church. He was a big part of the church youth group and choir since he was a kid, and as an adult helped often wherever there was need. When the Oakwood United Methodist Church disbanded, he joined the Portage First United Methodist Church to be close to his family. There, he met may new friends and became involved with missions work at the Henderson Settlement, Kentucky and at Four Corners, New Mexico.

When his son, Robert, started in Boy Scouts, Dave took an active role. He was there with him every step of the way and proud of his son when he earned his Eagle Scout badge. Dave went on to earn his Woodbadge award as an adult leader where his son in turn was very proud of his dad. The scouts from the troop knew his as “Mr. Raccoon”, originating from Dave’s many tall tales that he would tell the boys through comical reenactment. Dave recently became involved with the Scouting program, helping his grandson with projects and advancements. Always known affectionately as "Papa Bear" to the kids, Dave loved all kids and was a natural around them. Along with Dave's many interests, he was also an avid hiker prior to his heart problems. He was into genealogy and photography, and whenever he became interested in something, he read and researched it all. At one point he even took a clown class where he learned how to juggle and conduct magic! He had the greatest sense of humor, and could pull-off the best pranks with his stoic looks and dry sense of humor. In school he played the trombone and later as an adult took lessons on how to play the bagpipes. His musical instrument of choice was the guitar, an instrument that he taught himself how to play. Dave found enjoyment gardening, and liked fresh produce from his fields. He lived on a farm in Paw Paw for awhile where he grew asparagus, concord grapes and Christmas trees; his farm included chickens, cows, pigs and turkeys, too. For quiet time, Dave often found relaxation through fishing in front of his house in the summer or ice fishing in the winter. Dave was as diverse in his personality as he was his interests. He liked his hamburgers crisp and enjoyed experimenting with food combinations. He came up with very unique concoctions, like mayonnaise and peanut butter sandwiches . . . but for the most part, his cooking was pretty good. He collected records, with over 3000 in all. The Beach Boys, Elvis, and mountain music, especially banjos, were his favorite. All in all, Dave appreciated many genres of music. Throughout his life, he always had a faithful canine companion by his side. His last dog, Mandy, never willingly let him leave her sight. A dog that Dave adopted from a foster home program, she ended up having the perfect personality to compliment his life. His family thought she was a black lab, but Dave always maintained she was a boxer with only a hint of lab.

Dave thought of his grandchildren as “the light of his life and reason for living”. His face lit up each time he was told he would be a new grandpa and is remembered putting his hands in the air yelling “all right!” for each child. He would always drop what he was doing, literally, to help them in any way that he could. He liked taking them out to eat, and laughed at their jokes and silly antics. Dave would save bread for the boys to feed the ducks at his house. He loved having craft night with his boys, teaching them how to paint, construct models, draw and work with clay. He enjoyed teaching them what he knew but also loved learning from them. They taught Papa Bear about Lighting McQueen, the Wii, and Zhu Zhu Pets. He looked forward to seeing them any chance he could, often finding himself driving over to their house just to say hi and see how their day had gone. He remarked on how much they reminded him of their father at that age, which in turn was just like Dave as a child. A helper of people, generous and giving, there wasn't much Dave wouldn't do for those who needed a laugh, a helping hand, or a word of encouragement. With many interests, he lived to the fullest, and then some. When he did something, he put his heart and soul into it, which especially rang true towards those he loved. His legacy lives on, and although deeply missed, he will be fondly remembered for all that he was, and for all that he gave. On Saturday, April 28, 2012, David Henry, age 64, sadly died at home as a result of a house fire. Visitation with his family will be Wednesday, 5-8 PM at the Life Story Funeral Home, Betzler; 6080 Stadium Drive 375-2900 where his service will be held Thursday, May 3, 2012 at 11:00 AM. Dave was preceded in death by his parents, Howard and June Henry, and sister, Sandra Heit. He is survived by his children: Tonya (Todd) Hess, and Robert (Kelly) Henry; the three grandsons who were the light of his life and his reason for living, Zack, Tyler and Seth. To share a favorite memory and photo of Dave and to sign his online guest book, please visit www.lifestorynet.com.

David Henry