Daniel Joseph Henkelman
November 20, 1948 – November 17, 2020
Daniel Joseph Henkelman died peacefully on Tuesday morning, just a few days shy of his 72nd birthday, at an elder care facility in Ashland, Nebraska, following a multi-year battle with Lewy Body Dementia. Dan’s struggles with memory late in life cannot erase the countless happy and loving memories cherished by the family and friends he left behind.
Dan was born in Harlan, Iowa, a town located 14 or 17 minutes down the road from the family home of Mary and Frank Henkelman, respectively, depending on who was driving, in Defiance, Iowa. Frank met Mary, the daughter of Sicilian immigrants, while passing through Lafayette, Louisiana, on his way home from serving in the Pacific theater during World War II, where he was awarded a Purple Heart. Frank convinced Mary’s strict Italian father to allow her to return with him to Iowa, where Frank earned a living as a beekeeper and once served as the town Mayor, and the two started a family.
In addition to his parents, Dan was preceded in death by sister, Ann Ortman; and infant brother, Francis C. Survived by wife, Barbara Henkelman; daughters: Julie Koca (Todd), Gina Galpin (Jessica), and Megan Caul (Jason); grandchildren: Alex, Ben, Emily, and Nick Koca; Delaney, Andrew, and Olivia Galpin; Thomas, Lillian, and Amelia Caul; brother, Clem Henkelman; sister, Ruth Henkelman; nieces and nephews; and countless friends. Dan never knew a stranger; he could (and did) talk to anyone.
Dan attended elementary and high school at St. Peter’s Catholic School in Defiance, before following his sister, Ann, to Omaha to attend Creighton University. He also attended Parsons College. After graduation, Dan moved to Medina, Ohio, where he worked at Root Candle Company, before returning to Omaha and working in the circulation department at the Omaha World-Herald. As a youngster, he played electric guitar in a band, The Avengers (photos exist).
Barb and Dan both attended early morning Mass at St. James Seton, and one morning in the spring of 1984, a neighbor introduced them as they walked to their cars. Dan asked Barb for coffee after Mass one day, and later, out to dinner. They were married on July 19, 1986, in Ottumwa, Iowa. On honeymoon to Boca Raton, Florida, he wore a speedo and enjoyed driving a classic convertible Cadillac, which Barb recalls vividly to this day. He helped care for Barb’s three daughters – then aged 10, 14, and 17 – as if they were his own.
Dan worked at American Family Insurance for 34 years, where he consistently earned trips for high performance, which he enjoyed taking with work friends, and ultimately, the company’s “Life Diamond Ring” award. His office was a short walk from the Hy-Vee on West Omaha’s 132nd Street, and he was such a frequent patron there that he knew the entire store layout by heart, and many employees thought he worked there (He did not.)
He loved bowling, taught young kids how to bowl, transported his own bowling balls to the alley in a leather bag, and once bowled a perfect game of 300! He was known for a signature “hop” at the end of his follow through.
His golf game was less stellar, but he loved it, nonetheless. At his peak, he played 18 holes every Saturday and Sunday but sometimes 36 – rain, sleet, snow, or shine. “It never rains on the golf course,” he would say. Dan owned every gadget and gizmo to try and improve his game. He watched hours of VHS tapes and every golf tournament broadcast on TV. And yet, no one can recall his lowest score.
Dan loved spending time with his grandkids, whether it was fishing, golfing, or walking to the park. He loved trips to Canada and Tortola with Barb and her sister, Phyllis. In recent years, he would frequently grab coffee or lunch with his best friend, Terry, who would pick Dan up when he could no longer drive.
Other loves: eating, especially bread and spicy food. Copious amounts of coffee, 10-12 cups a morning in his prime, before switching to Diet Pepsi in the afternoon. Country music, especially Garth Brooks. Kathy Ireland in a swimsuit (duh). Old cowboy movies and the TV show, Gunsmoke. And the hymn, “Amazing Grace.”
Dan was always the first to laugh at his own jokes (and oftentimes also the last), but he got away with it in a way that others cannot. Because he was so humble, even tempered, and such a reliable husband, brother, parent, relative, and friend, it was an endearing quirk, not a self-serving one.
…Not self serving – those three words sum up Dan and his life most succinctly. And that is why those who knew him loved him so deeply and will miss him so dearly.
VISITATION following CDC guidelines: Friday, November 20th from 5pm to 7pm, at St. Leo the Great Catholic Church (1920 N. 102nd St.) followed by VIGIL SERVICE at 7pm. Private Family MASS OF CHRISTIAN BURIAL. INTERMENT: Resurrection Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, memorials are suggested to Prader-Willi Syndrome Association USA (https://www.pwsausa.org/get-involved/donate/) or Nebraska Ataxia (https://nebraskaataxia.org).
To view a live broadcast of the Vigil and Mass, go to www.heafeyheafey.com and click the “View Live Service” button on the homepage. The Mass will be available anytime Saturday after 2pm.