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Neil L. Henkel

Neil L. Henkel

Neil Henkel was born in the small town of Storden, Minnesota, on September 20, 1930 to Fred Henkel, a mechanic, and Camilla (Sheele) Henkel, a housewife. One of six children, he was raised in very modest circumstances.

Neil attended grade school and high school in Storden, finishing second in his small graduating class of 1949. Neil was a talented all-around athlete. A high school football star, he also wrestled and played on the basketball and baseball teams. As a senior, he was named Minnesota All State in football. And that year he won a state-wide art contest for an abstract painting.

In 1950 Neil enlisted in the U.S. Air Force , and he eventually spent three years in Wiesbaden, Germany. In Wiesbaden he played 3rd base for the Air Force baseball team; he taught swimming and managed a city pool; and he became a flight-radio operator for a four-star general. As part of the general's crew, he flew hundreds of trips all over the worldto France, Spain, Italy, Norway, Greece, and Morocco.

After his military service, Neil returned to the U.S, and in 1958 married Margaret Berg, a nurse and single mother of one, whom he'd met while they both worked at Willmar State Hospital in Minnesota. Margaret and Neil soon moved to St. Cloud, where Neil attended St. Cloud State University, earning a social science degree in 1962. By that time he and Margaret had had two more children and their fourth was expected.

Within a year of graduation, Neil accepted a job with the Internal Revenue Service, where he worked until his early retirement in 1988. In his middle and late years he looked forward to golf on weekends, to vacations at the lake, and to travel in retirement. For 26 years Neil also relished his annual fishing and camping trips to Canada with a large group of buddies.

He was a father who upheld strict principles, but he also believed that families should have summer vacations together; that kids should learn to swim, fish, skate, sled, and play sports. He coached his sons' Little League baseball team into last place in the league, just because he picked the eager but weak players other coaches wouldn't. His children appreciate the many years of outdoor fun.

Neil was a gifted story-teller with a wry sense of humor. Most people repeat stories; Neil always had new ones, charming tales of boyhood misdeeds, adolescent missteps, or adventures in Europe. He was one of those men people describe as "handy": he fixed his own cars, washing machines, and plumbing; he painted, tiled, and tinkered. Neil was a master of everyday knowledge and could name species of birds or tell you by what valves irrigation systems worked. He had an exacting memory for sports stats, politician's records, and WWII history.

Most of all, Neil was someone people could rely on, a man of uncompromising principles and absolute integrity. He was sweetly and absolutely devoted to his wife, whom he described to everyone as a remarkable woman.

We will all miss him.

Neil is survived by his wife Margaret; children Jacqueline (and husband Cliff Frohlich); Marc (and wife Cindy); Greg; and Susan Smith (and husband Scott); siblings Norma Garry, Algona Baumann, and Fred Henkel, Jr.; seven grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

Memorial services will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, October 14 at Celebration Lutheran Church, 1500 Pine Cone Road North, Sartell, MN 56377. Arrangements have been entrusted to Brenny Funeral Chapel in Randall, MN.