Volunteer Firefighter, National Guard Veteran, and My Friend

By Melissa Brunner

I am reminded this week of some of the truly great people I'm lucky enough to come to know through my job - and who I am now lucky enough to call friends.

Calvin and Hazel Henderson are such a couple. Doug and I met them when they traveled with us on the first Holiday Vacations tour we ever hosted. Turned out, they live near us and are regulars at the neighborhood coffee shop. Hazel quickly adopted us as a couple of her kids, and Calvin and Doug could endlessly swap stories. Around Christmas one year, they stopped in with treats when we weren't home and left them in our car. When we returned, we quickly received two phone calls - one from the neighbor to alert us about strange people lurking around and the other from those strange people, making sure we discovered our sweets!

Calvin might have seemed on the quieter side. His stories were told deliberately, but revealed a sly sense of humor and perhaps some mischievousness! He and Hazel were the perfect complement. He worked for the state in the printing division, served in the National Guard, and also dedicated 30 years as a volunteer firefighter for Soldier Township. When he retired, they retired his badge number along with him. We would attend the fire department's pancake feed each spring to find Hazel at the ticket table and Calvin on the serving line or at the griddle. Even after retirement, he'd be holding court among the crowd, sharing his stories.

Calvin and Hazel travelled with us again in 2009. This time it was to Hawaii as a belated celebration for the 50th wedding anniversary they marked three years earlier. Calvin's health was just starting to slip, but it was such a joy to be able to share this trip of a lifetime with them.

Sadly, Calvin passed away over the weekend. He leaves behind Hazel, their two daughters and sons-in-law and four grandchildren. We'll gather 11 am Saturday at North Topeka Baptist Church to celebrate his life and, I bet, share a story or two. And next time we head to the coffee shop, we'll raise a mug and remember that sly smile and glint in his eyes and chuckle along with his memory.


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