Chris and Elsie were always in my life, as long as I can remember. They lived in
Iowa when I was a little girl, but it was always good
news when they were expected to visit in West Denmark. They truly were the Aunt and Uncle that every
kid wants. Fun loving, always bringing
the best sweets, especially Aunt Elsie’s famous chocolate chip cookies, and
took time with the little kids that we were.
For some of my youth, I would only really see the
Iowa relatives at the
weddings of my cousins, where Elsie and Johanne would be busy in the
preparations and wedding day activities.
They were ‘the aunts’ who took care of everything.
Once I was living in
I would stop in Des Moines on my travels to and
usually (but not always) spending the night at their house. Sometimes, much to the dismay of both my
aunts, I would motor on after stopping for a short visit over coffee. Aunt Jo would really worry, and always tried
to talk me into staying until morning, but perhaps I have some of that stubborn
Dane that many talk about. In the days
when I would stop in Des Moines
to stay the night, Uncle Chris was still making wine. If I had a glass or two of his wine, the
decision was made that I had to stay.
His wine packed a punch. It was
always very tasty though and someday I hope to try my hand at duplicating a few
of his recipes.
Some years ago, I got a call from Chris and Elsie that they were camping near
Estes Park in Colorado
and they wondered if I would be able to come for a visit. As luck would have it, I had the next 4 days
off from working at Coors, so packed up my sleeping bag and headed to join
them. The camper was brand new and had
plenty of room for me to stay. There was
a problem with the drain on the ice box on the camper, it wanted to drain out
onto the floor, so I got under the camper and Uncle Chris was in the camper,
and between us we were able to feed the drain tube down the hole where it
belonged and it fixed the problem. Uncle
Chris praised me for a long time over being able to help fix that problem. It was a very fun visit. There was a parade in town, so Uncle and I
went to watch while Elsie was shopping with her sister in law. (I think it was Don and Carol who were
staying at a cabin in the area.) Uncle
Chris was quick to point out one of the entries in the parade that was a rowdy
group of Mountain Men. He thought I
might be interested in one of those guys for a spouse, ha. After the parade, we thought we should see if
we would see those Mountain Men again, so we slipped into The Wheel Bar for a
beer or two. I think we caught heck from
Aunt Elsie for that, but I enjoyed the fun time with Uncle. Uncle and I also hiked up to
during that camping trip. Once at the
top of the trail, we ran into some people from Emerald Lake France. Somehow the conversation went that Uncle
Chris had served in Europe and these people
thanked him profusely for all that he had done to help them during those war
years. It made a real impression on his
One year, I went on a train trip with Chris & Elsie and Dad & Ev to
California. They took the train to Denver and stayed a couple of days and then
we continued on to the West Coast for a visit with Gary and Maru and also Bobby
& Carole. It was a fun trip and we
laughed so much over silly stuff. One
big joke got to be splitting the check at lunch and whether I might owe Elsie
49 cents over a senior discount. We got
a lot of mileage out of that, and many laughs over the years remembering the
silliness of it all.
One of the stories that Uncle Chris told me about farming in
still make me chuckle. He talked about
how the cows had to spend the entire winter in the barn in those days. It must be made them pretty stir crazy, don’t
you think? So, when the weather would
finally get nice enough to let them out, Uncle told Aunt Elsie to come and
watch, and when the cows got out into the pasture, they literally kicked up
their heels and sprang around for joy.
It is an image in my mind of pure joy and I can vividly imagine both
Chris and Elsie getting a very good laugh out of the escapades of those cows.
After Aunt Elsie was gone, it happened that Uncle Chris’s Army Timberwolves convention was to be in
VA and Dad’s Navy Seabee reunion was to be in . So, a plan was hatched, that I would drive us
all to both reunions and we would have a scenic trip through the country on our
way there and back. The 4 of us had a
very fun trip. Uncle Chris contributed
a box of tomatoes to the food supply and we continued to eat his tomatoes for
most of our 2 week trip. Our lunches
were mostly picnics in some park along the way.
Uncle Chris and I shared a room to save on expenses, so we had plenty of
visit time. It was the trip of a
lifetime for me, to share that time with both Dad & Ev and Uncle
Chris. In DC, getting around was
somewhat challenging, but in those days, Uncle Chris carried a cane, so he got
preferential treatment from the bus drives and the like. Since I was his escort, I too got some prime
seating on the bus. Dad & Ev were
not so lucky. Of course once out of
sight of the bus driver, Uncle Chris’s cane didn’t touch the ground much, it
was held parallel to the ground and helped with balance while he hoofed it down
the sidewalk. We had many a laugh on
that trip and I have a photo album that documents our stops along the way. It was my first introduction to the
Timberwolves. This is a group of men who
served their country during WWII and many of whom held the utmost respect for
my Uncle who had been a leader and a hero in their combat time together. Youngstown, OH
Uncle Chris leaves us with a legacy as well. He spent much time writing about his memories as a kid, his service time,
West Denmark as
well as other topics. I was his typist
for some of his writings and I was honored to do it. He had the gift of writing that seems to come
from the Henriksen genetic pool. He
wrote much as he talked and it was always a joy to read his latest work. These writings live on, and leave us with a
part of him that will last for many generations to come. It was always in my mind to get his work put
into a book for publication for the cousins and others, now I need to move that
up my to-do list.
The last time I saw Uncle Chris was on my Dad’s 90th birthday. I drove Dad and Ev to
Des Moines and we had
coffee with Uncle, Aunt Johanne and Uncle Thorvald, Mary Riber, Nancy and Pat
O’Keefe and Gary. It was a good day for
Uncle, he was clear about who we were and the ‘adults’ had quite a discussion
about West Denmark in the days when there was some conflict in the
congregation. I enjoyed hearing them
talk of this and was amazed at how well they all, but especially Uncle Chris,
remembered the events of those days long ago.
We left him that day with a smile and it is how I always think of Uncle
Chris. He was generous with his good
spirit and smiles.
I was lucky and proud to be his niece.
Chris and Elsie were some very special people on this earth, how lucky heaven is to have them there together again now.
December 29, 2012