Elgin funeral home organizes military honors for homeless blogger

Doug Henke, a homeless blogger who became well-known in Elgin, will have a funeral with military honors Friday thanks to the efforts of a local funeral home.

Dan and Joy Symonds, owners of Symonds-Madison Funeral Home in Elgin, are the creators of Operation LOVE, which connects volunteers with local veterans and their events and causes. The couple collaborated for the fundraising effort with Nationwide Chaplain Services, whose president is the Rev. Tim Perry.

"The mission of Operation LOVE is to ensure no veteran is forgotten," Dan Symonds said. "Doug Henke preferred to be called 'houseless' and was well-known in our community through his blog, 'Arthur: Notes from the edge.' We invite all who knew him, and even those who didn't, to join us to say a final goodbye."

"Anytime we can honor a veteran in need with an honorable funeral, we will do it," Joy Symonds said. "They sacrificed for our freedoms, and this is truly the least we can do for them."

Henke died sometime between May 23, the date of his last blog entry, and June 11, the day his body was found in his dwelling in the woods. He would have turned 58 on June 12. A memorial was held in late June at Vineyard Church in Elgin by Street Reach, a ministry for the homeless and others in need.

Joy Symonds said she and her husband called the Kane County coroner to volunteer their services after they read the news about Henke's death. It took a few months to arrange the funeral for a variety of reasons, including time for the coroner to confirm Henke's identity and for the funeral home to verify he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy, she explained.

"Due to the pandemic and office closures, we had to play a bit of phone tag with state and federal officials to get answers," she said.

Henke served from 1982 to1983 in the U.S. Navy, where he studied nuclear power. He did not meet the two-year active duty requirement to qualify for burial in a Veterans Affairs cemetery, but is eligible to receive military funeral honors, Symonds said.

The couple contacted the city of Elgin about burial at Bluff City Cemetery and were granted a free grave in the cemetery's veterans section, with a cost of $732 for the opening and closing fee, she said. The Symonds then reached out to the Rev. Tim Perry, with whom they have collaborated to hold services for "unclaimed veterans."

Those who contributed to Henke's funeral include: Christopher Benjamin, owner of Dennis Curtis Boiler & Sales; True Patriots Care; EMS RoadDocs, Michael and Deborah Hruby; Travis and Jennifer Traub; Kane County Coroner Rob Russell; Twin Pines Crematory, Professional Cemetery Services; Michelotti Memorial Engraving; Memories in the Making; and volunteers from Operation LOVE, Joy Symonds said. "Everyone we asked said 'yes,'" she said.

Henke's funeral is at 10:30 a.m. Friday at Bluff City Cemetery, 945 Bluff City Blvd., Elgin. People can RSVP at His U.S. flag will be displayed permanently at the funeral home.

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