|Tribute to Don Henkle||Verne Windham||December 07, 2012|
| Don Henkle came to Spokane in the late ‘70’s on retiring as an Air Force pilot. He enrolled in the remarkable instrument repair program at SFCC which existed at the time. Upon graduating he set up his brass repair shop in his basement. We horn players quickly gravitated to him, initially because one of our own who shared our passion for our instrument was there to take care of us. We quickly realized the extent of Don’s skill, brain, and heart. He was a careful workman always looking for better technics and methods. He would not declare himself finished with a job until he was satisfied. He was discerning and careful, and would not take on our professional instruments unless he absolutely was convinced that he had the skills for the task. He absolutely practiced the Hypocratic Oath of “do no harm.” From this he developed into a true master craftsman.
Don wasn’t just fixing horns, he was playing them. Devoted to studying, practicing and playing, he started joining the many avocational music groups around, including—at various times—Gonzaga, Whitworth, SFCC and Project Joy orchestras. He also was the sparkplug for chamber music groups; woodwind and brass quintets and his special joy, an ensemble which championed mixed string/wind chamber music.
His greatest legacy was the Spokane Horn Club. We had existed, marginally, before that, but really came together under his leadership. One would never know him to be a former military man (except for the great B-52 photo on the wall) because his leadership was quiet and inclusive. No organization ever had a better “office” than Don’s horn cave in his basement. He gently rounded us up and got us to practices and events. He started collecting the extraordinary library of every possible horn ensemble. We got the red horn club shirts and a treasury which was the contributions into the beer nuts can. He found us places to play: The German Club, St. Charles Octoberfest, Street Music Week, and so many more. Don also found a great way to bring together two passions in the legendary South Skookum Lake Horn Campout. It was a marvelous, inclusive gathering for playing, talking, sharing and enjoying. Alphorn echoes across the lake were a particularly magical feature.
Don didn’t do this by himself. He did have such an all-embracing attitude toward everyone that he brought us all into his big tent—sometimes literally. He didn’t suffer fools well and could make a remark or two under his breath. (He particularly chastised me for bringing insufficient quality of beer to Skookum.) In creating the Audubon Park summertime weekly gathering, he really extended the influence of the horn club, helped keep us in shape, and encouraged everyone—no matter what playing level. Music to fit any size group was passed out, played once, and passed in. Little quarter was given and all had to rise to the occasion. Yet there was compassion, lots of it. Any physical or playing infirmity was worked around.
In this being written only days after the death of Don and Darlene, not all the facts are known. Yet, to this writer, those deaths were an act of love, compassion, and rational thought. Don had given up much dear to him over recent years to devote himself full-time to the care for Darlene through her failing health. He had his eyes clearly open, knowing what he was giving up, yet equally knowing what love, devotion, and responsibility required of him. Don lived a life of love, devotion and responsibility. To his family, his friends, music, horn playing, his church, and his country. Spokane, and music in Spokane, has been so much the richer for Don Henkle’s three or four decades among us.
1 year ago, Cyn said:
I first met Don in the repair class in 1981. He mentored me through making my first hand horns and nearly everything I know about repairing the horn. He introduced me to the art of real horn playing and many fabulous "real" horn players. My life has been enriched by his guidance and friendship over the past 30 years. It would be interesting to know how many young hornists he has sparked a passion in. Heaven's horn section has received a gift.