Daniel J. Henkelman

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.




  • Greg and Liz Easley Posted November 18, 2020 10:35 am

    We are heart sick to lose dear Dan! He was such a great friend, neighbor, and our American family insurance agent. Dan had a heart of gold and was always willing to help anyone! May he rest in God’s loving arms. And may you Barb be gentle with yourself in this painful time of grief… Knowing that you were an awesome loving selfless wife to dear Dan! Know that you are surrounded with love and prayers! Greg and Liz

  • Richard A. O’Gara Posted November 18, 2020 4:48 pm

    My condolences to you Barb and your family on Dan’s passing. It was such a surprise to see the obituary as I know how much he was looking forward to retirement as we played golf together. Mary and I met Dan when we moved to Omaha in 1989 and he handled our family until he retired. When my golf team dissolved Dan invited me to play with his team. I miss those Saturday golf outings to this day. May you draw strength from your memories and your faith.

  • Patti Hough Posted November 18, 2020 5:19 pm

    I am very sorry at the loss of Dan. I knew him for 29 years while working at American Family. He was always cheerful and funny. We would have good talks on the phone, when he called our office. When Dan came in to visit the other agents, he would always take time to stop and chat.
    Barb, I am so sorry.

  • Ken Summerfield Posted November 19, 2020 10:12 am

    Barb so sorry for your loss. Dan was a fantastic guy!

  • Mike and Sandy Brandl Posted November 19, 2020 5:59 pm

    To all the Henkelman family, Sandy and I would like to extend our deepest condolences. I had the privilege to work with Dan for 10 years. His attitude was great and so was that infectious laugh, we would talk about work but mostly about his family. Barb and the girls were the light in his life, his eyes would light up just talking about them. He will be missed but if we keep his memory close he will never be far away.

  • John Retzer Posted November 19, 2020 6:38 pm

    I enjoyed reading about Dan. Dan told me some of the stories over the years, but not all of them. Dan was a wonderful friend and golf buddy. He will definitely be missed.

  • Amy Bird Posted November 19, 2020 6:51 pm

    Sending all of you my sympathy, love and prayers. I wish we could be there with you. Amy Bird

  • Billy and Maria Posted November 19, 2020 7:34 pm

    Barb, we are so saddened to hear of your lose. Our hearts go out to you and the family. We will always remember his smile and laid back demeanour. We never saw him get excited, even after three bottles of happy hour wine, for you and Phylis. Just remember and cherish all the good times as they are far more than the sad times.

  • Jane Bertinetti Posted November 20, 2020 9:53 am

    My deepest condolences, Barb, to you and your loving family. He had such a wonderful like with you and the children and grandchildren! I will keep all of you in my prayers, and may Dan Rest In Peace in his heavenly home.

  • Linda Kolega Posted November 20, 2020 10:45 am

    I was fortunate to work with Dan almost his whole career at American Family. I was in the Midland office in St Joe and worked in the Agency Dept. better known as where the paychecks came from😃 I attended many Royals games with him and his district. Dan was such a gentleman and did have a great laugh. My sympathy goes to Barb and all his family.. Hang on to those memories, they will remain in your heart forever.

  • Mike & Glennis Frame Posted November 20, 2020 11:14 am

    Our deepest condolences go out to Barbara and her family for the loss of Dan. Everything said about Dan was true. He was the nicest, warmest, friendliest and happiest person to know. He always had time to share with you and was interested in your cares and concerns. Dan will be missed and his memory will be cherished. We will keep Dan and his family in our prayers.

  • John and Lori Woodruff Posted November 21, 2020 12:03 pm

    What a wonderful tribute to Dan – as warm and gentle as we remember him. The author(s) deserve extra praise for capturing his humanity so well for a life well lived.

    Our sympathies to Barb, the girls and the rest of family.

    Dan and Barb are our 3rd daughter’s godparents and we chose wisely. We have so many good memories of Dan/Barb and his step family, who we have been blessed to know and who brought joy to our lives in so many ways. From Julie “raising” our first born to Dan, Barb and family at church and other activities, they have always been an important part of our family. Dan was always enjoyable to be around and there was always a friendly and easy conversation to be had.

    We curse the plague of dementia which made the end times harder, and the plague of COVID, which makes the ability to pay proper tribute impossible, However, as you have written, his life and the memories of it far outshine those difficulties. May he rest in peace and God bless his family.

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