Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Mr. Henry's favorite trumpeter Fats Navarro
Fats, Mr. William Henry, one of your biggest fans, died last week. His funeral was Monday at Stinson Funeral Home in Southwest Detroit. Mr. Henry’s kids didn’t request an autopsy. They knew the cause of his death was loneliness. Five months ago, his wife, Ruth, died of breast cancer. They were married for 58 years. 

 Mr. Henry was 90-year-old, was about 5’-4’’, and was outspoken. Pastor Roderick Richardson, Ruth’s brother, gave the eulogy, and he said this about Mr. Henry: “If you talked to William, you had to come with your lunch and your dinner because William could talk for hours. I mean he could really talk”.

Of course, Mr. Henry was a talker. Hell, the man lived nine decades, fought in World War II, and traveled around the world twice. He had a ton of stories and wisdom to share.

As a young man, he explored an Eastern spiritual science called Sant Mat, Over time, he became a devoted  follower, and was convinced reincarnation was real.

The Henry family photo album has many shots of him sporting a turban. He could be an oddball regarding spiritual matters, but he never belittled his friends religious beliefs. 

Mr. Henry worked at Chrysler 40 some odd years as a skill tradesman. He and Ruth had five kids William, Wendell, Rose, Wayne, and Lisa. All of them are successful, and practice Sant Mat. 

Come rain or shine, every Sunday the family gathered for dinner. That tradition stopped when Ruth passed  on because Mr. Henry insisted on cooking. He made a mean pecan pie, but he couldn't cook worth a damn.

Aside from Ruth, jazz was Mr. Henry's primary passion. Fats, you, Louis Armstrong, Sonny Stitt, Dexter Gordon, and Miles Davis were his favorite musicians. He turned on Davis when he became a rock star. That old fool is what Mr. Henry labeled Davis. 

 Before Pastor Richardson began his eulogy, Wayne, Mr. Henry’s youngest son, played Horace Silver’s “Song for My Father”. Wayne is a mean sax player and a middle school music teacher. As he played, I kid you not, tears dripped off the keys of his alto sax.

As Wayne played the chord changes "To Song for My Father," I pictured Ruth and Mr. Henry at the old Paradise Theater dancing  to it,  Ruth in a floral printed dress, and Mr. Henry in his turban and best suit.

 When Wayne finished, Pastor Richardson joked: “Anybody who knew my brother-in-law knows if he was here, he would be howling right now because he loved jazz”.

One of Wayne’s boyhood friends asked Mr. Henry once if he was into James Carter, Joshua Redman, and Kenny Garrett. Mr. Henry said squarely he didn’t care for any jazz musician born after 1950.

On Mr Henry's 87th birthday, Wayne took him to hear Sonny Rollins at the Music Hall. Afterwards, He took a photo with Rollins.The next year, Mr. Henry met James Moody at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe.' 

 At VFW Hall in Lincoln Park, there was a repast. Mr. Henry’s family and friends ate fried chicken, green beans, spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, pound cake, and pecan pie while “Underground Thelonious Monk” played in the background. “In Walked Bud” was Mr. Henry’s favorite track on that album. Fats, I wish I could’ve spent time picking Mr. Henry’s brain about jazz. At Ruth’s repast, I chatted with Mr. Henry about Nat King Cole.

To Mr. Henry, Cole was the greatest jazz singer of all times. I couldn’t challenge his opinion. The only thing I knew about Cole was he made Mel Torme’s “Christmas Song” famous. Nevertheless, Mr. Henry motivated me to checkout Cole’s music. 

 Soon Mr. Henry will be happy again. He’ll reunite with Ruth. I heard once you’re accepted into heaven, it takes roughly a week for all the paperwork to be processed. Fats, when Mr. Henry gets there, I bet Ruth will be at heaven’s gate dolled up, waiting for him. 

 Fats, do me a favor. If you ever bump into Mr. Henry, show him around heaven’s jazz scene. Introduce him to Louis, Dizzy, Miles, and Thelonious. That would be a fitting homecoming gift for a good man who lived a righteous life, and who loved jazz.

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