James Henkel, 94, of Park Forest passed away peacefully at home on November 7, 2018. Jim was born on March 21, 1924 in Chicago, Illinois to George and Gertrude (Bradshaw) Henkel and grew up in Oak Park.
Jim enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1943 at the age of 19 and served until 1946 after receiving his wings as a navigator, at a time before radar, where he often navigated night flights by the stars.
After returning to civilian life, Jim met the love of his life, Ruth (Anderson) on a blind date in college and they were married on October 1, 1950 in Buda, Illinois and they recently celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary.
Jim received his Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. After graduation, he was employed by American Steel Foundries in their Engineering Division from 1949 until he retired in 1987 as a Design Manager in their Trucks Division. While at ASF, his designs earned him two patents.
Jim was a very young 94-year-old and thrived on being active. Ruth would often joke that she would need to be careful as to what she mentioned that needed to be done, fixed or built around the house, as he would want to immediately start in on the project. He was an avid golfer and was proud to have golfed his age many times in retirement. At 94, he still would occasionally play, most recently just a few weeks before his passing. He was an excellent woodworker who created everything from grandfather clocks to furniture to candlesticks. He also made birdhouses for the Audubon Society where he participated in bluebird counts. Some of his favorite times were spent volunteering. One of his favorite places, was volunteering at Glenwood School for Boys teaching woodworking.
Jim and Ruth loved to travel and had many trips within the US and around the world. A highlight being a four-week assignment in India for the United Nations. Jim was an avid reader and a proud veteran of WWII. He participated in an August 24, 2010 Honor Flight to Washington D.C., where he was honored for his service. Having the opportunity to participate in an Honor Flight was one of the proudest moments and best days of his life.
Jim is survived by his loving wife Ruth, his son David of San Diego, CA, his two daughters, Carol O'Connell (Jerry) and Pat Workman (Jay) both of San Rafael, CA.; grandchildren: Erin O'Connell, Megan Syrios, Hilary Gardner, Erik Henkel and Sara Henkel; great grandchildren: Barrett and Ellis Gardner, Azalea Syrios and Levi, Claire and Scarlett Castro; Jim’s sister, Ruth Ann (Nelson) and sister-in-law Marilyn (Bartle) Henkel. Jim was preceded in death by his brother Don and his brother-in-law Gerry Nelson.
All who knew him will miss his willingness to lend a helping hand, sharing a good joke over a 5:00 cocktail and stoking of a well-tended fire to keep his family and friends warm. As he would often say, “Last one out, turn off the lights.”
There will be a celebration of Jim's life held Sunday, November 11 at 1:00 p.m. at Grace United Protestant Church in Park Forest, IL. There will be a reception immediately following at the church. The interment at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, IL will be private.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Jim's name to Honor Flight Chicago. https://www.honorflightchicago.org/
Honor Flight Chicago
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