Donald Gilbert Henry
Don was born Jan. 22, 1949, in Chicago and grew up in Cicero, Ill. His official date of death was Jan. 23, 2021. He was the youngest son of William B. and Violet J. Henry, founders of Henry's Drive-in on Ogden Ave. (also known as Old Route 66) near Austin Blvd. in Cicero. Don and his brothers, Bill and Bob, grew up as hot dog royalty, working along side their parents, friends, neighbors and relatives, including the inimitable and unforgettable, Aunt Stella Sluka.
He graduated from college at UW-La Crosse with a degree in English and loved the La Crosse area so much that he decided to make it his home. He married Candace Lawson in 1986 and a few years later opened Henry's Top Dog in La Crosse, modeled after the original Henry's Drive-in, which was then owned by his brother, Bob. Unfortunately, the business wasn't sustainable and closed after a couple of years.
But music, not hot dogs, was his life. In the 1960s with the influence of The Beatles, The Dave Clark 5, and all the great rock bands of that era, Don became an excellent bass guitar and keyboard player, despite being nearly deaf in one ear, and after college played with several bands that toured the Midwest and East. He learned the skill of piano tuning and was self-employed in that trade the rest of his life. He and his band mates often appeared at the La Crosse Oktoberfest and clubs, bars and venues around the area. Like his trumpet player father, most of his friends were musicians and he recorded a lot of original music with such titles as "Beyond the Wazoo," "Funky Monkey," "Five Guys" and "Thinking of Dad." The 2020 Covid-19 shutdown limited his jam sessions, but he was optimistic about the coming year.
Don loved camping, fishing and getting together with brothers, Bill and Bob, Bill's brother-in-law, Bob Musil, and his son, James Musil, at the Musil cabin in Crivitz, Wis. The fishing wasn't always great, but the stories, laughter and drinking around the nightly campfires were. Every year Don would haul his boat and motor to Crivitz and some years it even went in the water. He was always accompanied by his fine, proud young golden retrievers - first Jaco, and recently Miles, who has now found a new home thanks to the La Crescent Animal Shelter.
Don died of sudden heart failure a few days before his 72nd birthday, and is mourned by his brothers, Bill (wife, Cynthia) Henry of Santa Barbara, Calif., Bob (wife, Lori) Henry of Leland, Wis.; three nieces and three nephews; many great-nieces and great-nephews; and numerous cousins in the Chicago area. He will be missed by his friends and band mates, Sam Monsoor, Jeff Tesch, Al Fruechte, Paddy Rose, stepson, Trace Lawson and all the boys and girls in all the bands.
Rest in Peace, Baby Donnie.