Reading Steve Henry’s last column for the Chippewa Herald was bittersweet. When I began to write for the Herald in 2011, Steven Henry was one of the first people to call me and express support for my writing and to welcome me on board.
I had known of Steve for years before he ever knew me. Ironically, growing up in Marshfield, we received two television stations: WSAU Channel 7 (CBS) and WEAU TV Channel 13 (NBC). Though I was not a devoted follower of the Lucky 13 fishing show, I do remember both Steve and Hal Holbrook being on from 10:30 to 11:00 on Sunday nights. I was never much of a fisherman but I caught the show (no pun intended) during the summer when I could.
When I moved to Hallie in 1976, I got to know Hal Holbrook, a Hallie resident, and learned more about Steve Henry. In his last column, Steve detailed his Army years and adventures in the military. Steve followed my father’s footsteps going to Fort Lewis for Korea; my father went to Fort Lewis, from Fort Sam Houston, to receive additional medical training before being shipped to Camp Adair in Oregon. It appears that soldiers from Wisconsin are always shipped south then northwest before Uncle Sam sends them on their way; usually to a climate much different than Wisconsin.
Steve’s last column certainly reviewed many of his life’s accomplishments and a wide circle of people he knew. What I did not know was that he and his wife had eight children. I was also unaware that Steve and his wife had almost 30 grandchildren.
What I do know is this: Steven Henry’s picture in the paper looks like what Steve truly is; a very nice man, with a warm smile and eyes looking toward the future. In person, Steve is warm and outgoing with a gentle and kind word for everyone. If someone claims to have gotten a raw deal from Steve Henry, I have yet to hear about it.
Steve has spoken at Prairie View Cemetery several times for Memorial Day. Steve graciously accepted the cemetery board’s request to do so again this year. Steve has a way with being patriotic without being overbearing. His message is always one of hope, and it comes across with a sincerity that matches the man.
I never met Fr. Charley Sherman, who told Steve that ‘the Good Lord is more pleased with you than you realize,” but I believe Fr. Sherman was absolutely correct. We all disappoint the people we love as they disappoint us. It is how we react to that disappointment that makes us who we are and shapes our lives. I don’t think Steve needs one more turn on God’s potter’s wheel; I think Steve already is a keeper.
The age difference between Steve and I make Steve either my dad or my older brother who left the house before I got to know him. I know that I too think about being a kid once again. The blue sky of summer beckons’ to us both and the cries of the kids from the deep woods are strong. To sit outside at night and just stare up into the heavens is something that is almost irresistible. We can never go home again, but we can visit. I came across this old poem, Steve and thought of you.
“Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight, Make me a child again just for tonight!
Mother, come back from the echoless shore, Take me again to your heart as of yore; …
Many a summer the grass has grown green, blossomed and faded, our faces between: Long I tonight for your presence again. Come from the silence so long and so deep. Rock me to sleep, mother, rock me to sleep!” (Elizabeth Akers Allen, 1832–1911)
We pick up our burdens like farmers clearing rocks from a field. Our lives become complex beyond our wishes. If we are lucky later in life we can choose our pleasures and obligations. Please fly your kites and finishing carving your creatures. Be that kid you want to be again. Your articles and insight will be missed; the very best to you.