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updated: 9/6/2012 1:15 PM

Northwest suburbs loses longtime music educator

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  • Robert Henry conducting the band in District 57.

      Robert Henry conducting the band in District 57.
    Courtesy of the Henry family

 
By Eileen O. Daday
Daily Herald correspondent

Robert Henry taught band students in Mount Prospect Elementary District 57 for nearly four decades, before retiring to teach privately throughout the District 214 area.

He died Sunday after a battle with colon cancer. The Rolling Meadows resident was 82.

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Band directors throughout the area mourned Henry's loss and the positive effect he had on their students, even as he continued teaching students privately in his home, working through his illness.

"Bob taught students in the Hersey pyramid for many years and was a special teacher," says Scott Casagrande, John Hersey High School band director. "Many students loved him and he had a huge impact on the success of our Hersey and MacArthur (Junior High School in Prospect Heights) band programs for many years."

Former Hersey band director, Dallas Niermayer, recalled that Henry taught private woodwind lessons to the band students of both Forest View and Hersey high schools, starting in 1975, even while teaching elementary students full time in Mount Prospect.

"During that time he guided some of the finest woodwind players in those bands to achieve extremely high standards of musicianship," Niermayer said. "Over the years he made a huge contribution to the high level of success of the music programs in District 214."

Henry was an accomplished musician himself. He grew up in Hammond, Ind., playing clarinet in his grade school band. He continued his music at Northwestern University, playing in the 1949 Rose Bowl, and later with the Great Lakes Naval Band while serving during the Korean War.

During his musical studies at Northwestern and later with the Navy School of Music in Washington, D.C., Henry became proficient on all the woodwinds, adding flute, oboe, bassoon and saxophone to his repertoire.

It was at Great Lakes in 1952, where he married his high school sweetheart, Nancy Miller, and that fall he began his teaching career with District 57. The couple eventually moved to the Northwest suburbs and were among the first homeowners in Rolling Meadows.

"He always liked the big band sound," said his wife, Nancy. The couple recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.

Henry taught students in their home every Saturday and he often attended their school band concerts. One of his most accomplished students, Megan Rullo, is one of the drum majors at Buffalo Grove High School. She studied with Henry on four instruments -- clarinet, saxophone, bassoon and oboe -- since sixth grade, and will play at his funeral service.

"I loved being able to play more than one instrument, and his talent on all five of the woodwind instruments amazed me," Megan said. "I wanted to be just like him."

Ed Jacobi, Buffalo Grove High School band director, remembers Henry was a regular at their concerts and he appreciated their band literature, with its roots in John Phillip Sousa's classic marches.

"As music educators we strive for our musicians to be lifelong performers," Jacobi said. "Bob embodied that."

Besides his wife, Henry is survived by his three daughters, Susan (Donald) Mallinger, Pamela (Steven) Cole and Patricia Henry, as well as five granddaughters.

Visitation will be 3 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 6 at Meadows Funeral Home, 3615 Kirchoff Road, Rolling Meadows. Visitation will be Friday, from 3 p.m. until the 4 p.m. service at The Bridge Community Church, 946 E. Thacker St., Des Plaines.

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