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Henry John Henkel

April 1, 1933 ~ December 4, 2023

Henry John Henkel

Henry was born and raised in farming country around the Grey and Bruce County area of Ontario.   He grew up surrounded by the love of his parents, four brothers and a baby sister.  Although there were difficult times and everyone had to do their share, there was much joy and love in the household.

As a young man, he moved to Vancouver with his brother Howard.  Here he fell in love with the girl down the street, who had recently moved from England.   Henry and Barbara were married on October 11, 1958, and within six months moved to Chesley, Ontario where they bought and ran a dry-cleaning plant and where their five children were born.

After 14 years in Chesley the family moved to White Rock, British Columbia for a couple of years before settling down in Haines Junction, Yukon in 1975, where he and Barb lived for the next 48 years.

Henry needed very little in life to keep him happy, all he needed was Barbara and their family. After 65 years of marriage there was still love in his eyes every time he looked at Barb, and he often said that the best decision he ever made was asking her to marry him. Up until his last days he whispered to family members about how caring and thoughtful Barb is and how he is the luckiest person on earth because he “got the best one”.  The love they have for each other is contagious and will continue on forever.

Henry was a hard-working, life-loving man, who was both community and family oriented. He coached many hockey teams over the years and was always supportive and encouraging of his kids and grandkids playing the game, whether they were boys or girls.  In his early Haines Junction days, he always made sure the ice was flooded and that there was a fire going in the tiny change room of the old arena when school let out, as he knew this was where many of the kids were heading. During games, if he wasn’t on the bench coaching, he could be found standing behind the plexiglass at the centre line immersed in whatever level of hockey was being played. This continued into the last years of his life; an ever-present cheering section that will be greatly missed.

Health, whether that be mental, spiritual or physical, was important to Henry, and he started jogging before jogging was a popular pastime.  Eventually he ran in both individual and relay races and enjoyed the individuality of the sport as well as the competitive and social comraderie.  He excelled at strategy games, and was a competitive chess player, playing in many tournaments. Later in life his chess playing was switched to other strategy games that he played with his family.  He also enjoyed both playing and watching curling, and it wasn’t long ago that he could still be found throwing a few rocks down the ice on a Sunday afternoon. The last couple of years also found him putzing in his garden and greenhouse, playing games with his family and doing jigsaw and sudoku puzzles.

In his early life, Henry was an active member of Lutheran and Anglican Church congregations.  In his later years, his beliefs did not fit into any specific organized religion and were instead based on kindness, positivity and gratitude.  He recognized and marveled at the many miracles in life and expressed joy and gratitude for the beauty and kindness around him.

Henry worked on many large and small building projects around Haines Junction, and throughout The Yukon, as well as spending a number of years working on the trails in both Kluane Park and Reserve and on the Chilkoot Trail.  He loved being in nature and exploring these areas. Henry found simple joy in watching wildlife, seeing the river breakup, the sun rising and setting, and looking up at the moon and the stars. His favourite flower was the dandelion.

While many would describe him as a carpenter, Henry thought of himself as a creative builder and believed that anything was possible.  With this in mind, he took on the project of designing, and building an eight-sided log church. Four years of volunteer time, including many hours of creative problem solving and ingenuity, as well as the actual construction, were needed to complete this endeavour.  Henry completed the building with passion and the love of a project that kept him challenged both physically and mentally.

When this project was completed, he worked together with his son-in-law to build a timber frame home for his daughter, Kim and her family, and then a log home for his son, Todd and his family; continuing to lovingly volunteer his time and creative building skills.

His final building project was one led by his son Steve, as together they worked towards building an ingenious stack wall home in the woods.

Together with Barb, Henry enjoyed traveling to Nova Scotia to visit their daughter Tracey and her family and enjoy the beauty that surrounded her.  He often lent a hand and expertise to whatever building project was underway on the family’s property.   They also enjoyed traveling to and exploring beautiful destinations, from Tofino B.C. to Mexico, California and Costa Rica with his daughter Judy and family.  His love of family, inquisitive mind, and love of the natural world made these trips precious to everyone.

During his last months, Henry was surrounded by his family and played games, told stories, sang songs and brought laughter to everyone around him.  He was grateful for all that he had and the love that surrounded him, and we his family are grateful for the love that shone from him and that he instilled in us on a daily basis.  And in the words he said to us multiple times a day, we say to him “THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU”.

Although he is gone from this earthly world, part of him will remain in what he has built, including the family he loved.  We are forever grateful and know we have a wonderful guardian angel watching over us.

In lieu of flowers or donations, the family asks that you choose joy, kindness and gratitude throughout your day as Henry did.


Comments (3)
  • 4 January 2024
    Mark Evans-Ehricht

    I just learned about Henry 5 minutes ago.

    Beautiful person. Thank you for this wonderful tribute.

  • 5 January 2024
    Glenys Baltimore

    What a beautiful tribute. Thank you.

  • 16 January 2024
    Boyd Campbell

    You’ll spend more than a lifetime looking for a better man than Henry Henkel.

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