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RIP Dan Henley - Virtual Sacrifice Log
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RIP Dan Henley
Daniel "Chip" Henley, 48, died suddenly on May 6, 2009. Funeral Mass is in St. Aloysius Church, Caldwell, on Monday at 11 a.m. Visiting is in Farmer Funeral Home, 45 Roseland Ave. (at Eagle Rock Avenue), Roseland, on Saturday evening from 5 to 8 p.m. Interment is in Prospect Hill Cemetery, Caldwell. Chip was born in Montclair and was a lifelong resident of Caldwell. He received a B.S. degree in biology from Cook College-Rutgers University, New Brunswick, in 1983. Chip was a self-employed jewelry designer and maker. He was the son of Jane Blessing Henley and the late Daniel John Henley; brother of Jane Puleo (husband Nick) and Katherine Henley (husband Dan Martindale), and uncle of Lauren Puleo, and Caroline and Thomas Martindale. In lieu of flowers, donations to West Essex First Aid Squad, P.O. Box 662, West Caldwell, N.J. 07006 or American Heart Assn., 1 Union St., Suite 301, Robbinsville, N.J. 08691 would be appreciated.
Years ago, when I was in grade school, my mother became involved with a man named Dan Henley. A tall and large man, often grinning and prepared to offer a giant bear hug to friends and family. As my brother cessna182 noted almost a year ago, he really took care of us and easily accepted us as if we were his blood. A bigger heart you would not have been able to find.

Much of who I am today, I can trace back to that period of my life. I was closer to him than my natural father in many ways, and closer to him than my second stepfather (the latter due to my own hangups and perceiving of him as "getting rid" of Dan unfairly). Dan was in many ways a professor of life, encouraging me to think and learn at all times. Instead of teaching me how to play catch, Dan took it upon himself to teach me algebra. Instead of learning about the Yankees current lineup, he encouraged me to learn about history. Dan was a Renaissance man*, familiar with a wide variety of topics enough to encourage a young mind to look further into whatever topic caught my attention. Any question I had, he encouraged me to find the answer to it, and helped me do so. Puzzling through problems and obstacles using reasoning, logic, intuition, and other intellectual tools was his greatest gift to me.

*: yes, a flaw that I came to see what problems it caused him later in life

He and my mother quillter introduced me to a myriad of things at a young age, from Shakespeare to sushi. Playing Dungeons and Dragons from the age of eight or so, the two wrote pencil and paper role playing game modules for Iron Crown Enterprises. Rusak? The name of my World of Warcraft character? Came from a god of destruction they named after me (says a lot about their view of me as an adolescent, eh?) They encouraged me to game master as well as play, fostering my story telling skills, creativity, and imagination.

This year, as I'm getting conned back into taking part in the New Jersey Renaissance Kingdom, I remember going to ren faires with them as a young child. 21 years ago, I was at the first NJRK - and the next few. I won the costume contest at a New York faire as a child, and went to many other faires with family and friends. Every faire we went to, I watched Dan wheel and deal and bargain with the shopkeepers.

Dan's high school and college friends were wonderful, like a family to me, and really instilled in me a desire to surround myself with good friends to make my life richer. Frank the doctor and DC Comics fan, Geoff, the other Dan, Bill, etc. Bill lived with us for a while, and was probably one of the most influential people in my life - Bill got me into computers. Without Bill teaching me to learn how to program on his Apple ][e, and him encouraging me how to creatively circumvent primitive copy protection schemes on my 8088, I probably wouldn't be where I am today. Bill gave me a hunger for computer games, a desire to understand how computers tick, and the fundamentals of how to learn that. CyberSphere? WoW? My present career? All trace back to Bill. My brother and I both owe a lot to Bill.

Every year his friends would go to one of the NY faires with him, engaging in a friendly wager where the men competed at all of the games throughout the day. Bill would win at knife throwing, Dan would win at the test of might, etc. I believe the winner bought drinks for the rest. Some of my fondest childhood memories come from trips with them to the ren faires, or playing D&D with them. And they weren't the only RPG companions my parents had, the local comic book store's manager hosted an evening that they frequently GMed at, and I met Scott - one of my closest friends through the chaotic and tumultuous period of high school - through that. He met me as a nine year old child to his fifteen years, and when I was fifteen and suddenly in a new town without any friends, that twenty-one year old helped me find friends and learn a lot about love and life.

Musically, Dan was a massive influence. Dan was a connoisseur of classic rock, and was willing to discuss it for hours at the drop of a hat. From Led Zeppelin to Lynyrd Skynyrd and everything in between, Dan introduced me to lots of music I would have been otherwise without. While cessna182 gave me the gift of heavy metal, Dan taught me all about rock and roll.

Dan held a wide variety of jobs through the time I knew him, and was often running a few things on the side. Making and selling jewelery, working to create a network of non-profit organizations, whatever project he had brewing up there, he was pushing. Dan was a master salesman, and amazing barterer. One Red Paperclip reminded me of him, particularly of the day Dan caught and brought a fly on a string to a faire, trading it and trading it to see what he could work his way up to.

Not to speak ill of the dead, but Dan was not perfect. He was not the perfect man, husband, or father. In retrospect, hindsight being 20/20 and whatnot, I've seen the flaws and understood things better now than I did in the moment. But I loved him, and during the second divorce I argued with all parties (my mother, my father, and Dan) that I most wanted to live with Dan. This didn't happen, and he slipped out of my life. He kept in contact with my mother's family, but being young and Dan not sticking with a permanent address or online address often, he was oft hard to get a hold of.

We saw Under Siege together one night, as a sort of visitation. We went to Bill's wedding together, which I was honored to have been able to attend. A few times I visited New Hope, I'd run into him. One time he was selling books and candelabras by the river with a partner, another time he was selling sports memorabilia, another time he was selling art while also bouncing. Everyone in the tight-knit local artists community knew him, and every store I walked into for the rest of the day I was recognized as "Dan's son". But I stopped going to New Hope for a while, and a few times I returned I didn't see him. Instead of immediately running into him at the second or third store, I had to ask around for him and still couldn't find him. The last couple of times I went to ren faires with my mother's family and Dan's friends, he wasn't with us, and we discussed how hard it was to track him down.

Last fall, I was with jedimentat, at a faire in Pennsylvania, when she commented how surprising it was that we hadn't run into him. As we walked down the path, I saw a jeweler with grey hair, a full beard, and jewelery in tackle boxes... Certainly it couldn't be. We hung out by his stall for a while, trying to get his name, to see if it was him, if he would recognize me, anything. He left the stall in the hands of a couple who didn't know his last name, much to our furthered frustration. Finally he made a comment about Montclair or Caldwell, which was enough of a sign to me. Tearfully, I gave him my full name. "I'm your stepson." We both burst into tears, we hugged, and jedimentat cried as well. We chatted and caught up for the rest of the day, I found out how all of his friends were, and updated him with all of my friends and family that he knew. I watched him wheel and deal with customers, and old memories flooded back over me like a river. Yes, this was Dan. The smile, the hugs, the sharp mind, the humor, everything was there. We exchanged contact information.

Unfortunately, we didn't contact each other. jedimentat later told me about how she had recognized him from her years of involvement with local faires, and told me sad stories of him wandering around faire sites drunk, which broke my heart. He had made comments about living out of his car while I saw him, and hoped the best for him. I told cessna182 about my encounter, and about all that jedimentat said. Horribly, I never passed along his contact information to my brother either.

Three weeks ago, jedimentat and I were back in New Hope, reliving our second date together. Near the end of the evening, I saw him from a distance. He called out to us, trying to sell us jewelery, not recognizing us between the darkness and his failing eyes and his glasses that didn't look up to prescription being held together by tape and hope. It being late and me feeling shame at having not contacted him and me wishing he had recognized me, we walked on. Three weeks later, I woke up to an email informing me of his death three days ago. I regret not stopping and talking with him again with every ounce of my soul, and feel an incredible amount of guilt.

Dan was one of the most important figures in my life. Whatever he might have done, whatever he might have become, he helped make me who I am today - and some of the things I love the most about myself I can trace to him, directly or indirectly.

When Dan's father died at a young age, a comment was made that stuck with me. His father was incredibly inquisitive, studying computers and learning everything he could about the early Macs he had in his study, which was filled with books about a cornucopia of topics. "Now he finally understands how it all works."

I can only hope for such a thing for Dan.

Current Location: Hoboken, NJ
Feeling: sad sad

Chorus of 8 demons || Preach it
bearcatsandor From: bearcatsandor Date: May 9th, 2009 09:56 pm (UTC) (Hard link)
Beautifully, written. I was a player at two of his RPGs, before i came to know quillter well, and i enjoyed both of them very much. I admired his inventiveness and his ability to create stories. When i think of the good Storytellers i have had, he is among them.

I considered him a friend even during the tensions between us, especially during our frank conversations at that time. I have thought about him much over the years and i deeply respect what he brought to all of your lives and my final thought on it was always that i hoped he had found what truley made him happy.

I hope that Dan gets a really good bargin, as he trades that fly on a string to his Creator(s). He certainly deserves all the treasure he can find.

periol From: periol Date: May 10th, 2009 02:27 am (UTC) (Hard link)
Sounds like a great man.

I wouldn't worry about the stuff that didn't happen. Be grateful for the times you had together. It'll all come out in the wash.
metallian From: metallian Date: May 10th, 2009 03:01 am (UTC) (Hard link)
My condolences on your loss.

Thanks for sharing his story/your story, it was well worth reading.
From: csmole Date: May 12th, 2009 04:17 am (UTC) (Hard link)
It's taken me about 3 days between various indignities to finish reading this, but I made sure I did. Mayhap that someone writes this way about me when I'm gone.

I'm sorry for your loss.
kikibird From: kikibird Date: May 12th, 2009 04:29 am (UTC) (Hard link)

Russ, I'm so sorry

I remember hearing stories about him.
If he does now understand how it all works, you have nothing to regret.
weaponjx From: weaponjx Date: May 13th, 2009 03:15 am (UTC) (Hard link)
My condolences
From: lizard1179 Date: June 21st, 2009 07:09 pm (UTC) (Hard link)
I never met Dan but heard of him from my best friend Holly, she met him in the shop she worked in in West Reading where they sold his stuff. Dan had made some things just for Holly and was going to make some for my Wedding. Holly has been so worried she had not hread from him, then she found out why.... so sorry for the loss.
alix777 From: alix777 Date: September 3rd, 2009 12:04 am (UTC) (Hard link)

I'm sorry I didn't see this sooner...

My name is Brian, and Dan and I were great friends. I saw you at the funeral, but I was unaware of who you were and only later did his mother tell me that you were his stepson. Dan was indeed a renaissance man, and maybe that is why it took his passing for his true successes to be noticed.

I have known Dan since his "art and candelabra" days...I was a sophomore in college at the time, and I was drawn into his store in New Hope. Since then him and I had been acquaintances, and then friends, and finally business partners in our own renaissance faire. He was a complicatd person, who drew other complicated people into his circle of friends. Myself included. There were times when he infuriated me, times I infuriated and disappointed him...but in the end...he was one of my closest friends.

The true scope of his life has yet to be measured...as there are STILL people out there that I bump into that I have to break the terrible news to. I am not fond of when that happens, as I have to relive the entire thing again, but I feel privaleged at the same time, because I am one of Dan's core "family" members that gets the call when people hear the news.

He always seemed to know what he was doing...even when I questioned it...and I realzied that, as offbeat as his life was...he was driven by something greater...and it has been shown since his passing...the hundreds of people that his life touched, the hundreds of people that who's life he influenced and changed and motivated...

If, when my time comes, my life has touched half as many as Dan's did...then I would consider my life to have been worthwhile. He had his flaws, as we all do, and there were times when he was lonely...I know this because he basically lived with us for the past two years, in between his journies, his trips for jewelry material, his deliveries, his events...he was usually found alseep in my living room...the unofficial third roommate.

I guess what I want to say here is...though we never met, Dan had mentioned you in the past with great fondness. That he wished he could have stayed more in your life. Usually it was during late night conversations that Dan and I would have over coffee and cigarettes...but when his mother mentioned you to me, I remembered them, and I had wished I had a chance to talk to you in person.

I'm sorry that this post comes so late past the fact...but I was missing him today...and I googled his name. He was indeed a complicated and hard to understand man...and I never realized how much he meant to me until he was gone...how much I miss his criticisms, his wit, his sometimes harsh realistic tones when speaking to me...I knew I was his friend, because he never pulled punches with me, and I knew what he thought of other people...heh. I swear I see him once in awhile. When we are on our faire site. In my living room some nights I swear he's going to be there on the couch. In his passing he gave me the greatest gift...he inspired me...and took away all of my excuses as I do feel that he is around and I don't want to disappoint him...

In the end...he was happy. He inspired all of us to blaze our own path, and he followed with us for as long as he could. He was sometimes lonely, but he was never alone. He was sometimes discouraged, but he never showed it, and he always had a smile on his face. He lived his life his way, and it didn't always succeed, but god damned if he didn't brush the dust off his knees and keep going.

If you are ever in the area of our ren faire, its the first two weekends in June, in Lehighton, PA...please feel welcome to drop in, just ask for Brian at the gate and tell them who you are...it would be my pleasure for you to be there and see something that Dan helped build...something that we blaze forward with in his memory.


Sorry for the long rambling post.
Chorus of 8 demons || Preach it