Henry Daehnke Jr.

Obituary of Henry LeRoy Daehnke Jr.

Henry LeRoy Daehnke, Jr., 80, died at his home in Lakewood, WA. Those who relish the irony of it may prefer to believe that he died on Monday, December 25, Christmas Day. Those of us who cared for him most hope he died on Tuesday, or even as late as Wednesday.

Henry was born in St. Louis, Missouri on October 25, in 1943, to Genevieve Caroline Kessner and Henry LeRoy Daehnke, Sr. He inherited his incongruously regal middle name, always styled with a medial capital R, from his father. Dispossessed kings they were, of no land or consequence. His mother, Genevieve, called him Sonny, probably to distinguish him, at least by name, from his overbearing father. His family and friends called him Hank.

Hank worked with his hands. He fixed things. He fixed things as a mechanic at McDonnell Douglas in Missouri. Later he fixed things at Boeing near Seattle. He fixed things at home, sometimes the very things he himself had broken only moments earlier. He fixed his cars, a few of which he bought — a battered old Fiat, for example — mostly because they needed fixing. He never read manuals or studied schematics. He relied on his preternatural sense of how things ought to work. He knew what went where, which drill bit to use, the right direction to turn a wrench, a Phillips 1, 2, or 3 by feel. He could tell the difference without measuring between one half and five eighths. Wayward, damaged things worked again in his hands.

Hank didn't deal in abstractions, semiotics, or hyperlinks. He was bewildered by our increasingly digital age, superannuated in a software universe. He worked in wood, steel, rubber, grease, gaskets, nuts, and bolts. Hard, immediate, bygone things. He needed to get his hands dirty working with a thing in order to understand it.

He didn't always understand people, and people likewise often failed to understand him. Cats and dogs trusted him, sensing a feral kinship with him. He did find human love and sympathy at last in his third go at marriage, with Bronwen, his nightingale. Two broken people who fixed each other up. He never recovered his balance after her song ended. He was baffled, in fact, and disappointed, that he kept on living when she was gone. But you couldn't get him to complain about himself, his pains, his losses. He often complained about the injustices of the world, only rarely about his own suffering. As it should be.

He is survived by two of his three sons and four grandchildren. His eldest son, carrying his name as he carried the name of his own father, died in 2018, the last true king of the line.

Hank adored his niece, Nina, her daughter, Erin, and her son-in-law, Drew. He loved Nina's little flower granddaughters, Iris and Juniper. It was with that beautiful family where he had hoped to be, finally, at home.


Memorial donations may be made in Henry's name to the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation or the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center.

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We are deeply sorry for your loss ~ the staff at Edwards Memorial | Lakewood & Crematory
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