Full honors for Elgin's 'houseless not homeless' blogger
Friends and blog readers gave Doug Henke a final, heartfelt send-off Friday morning in a service with military honors at Bluff City Cemetery, followed by a private scattering of his ashes at his campsite in Elgin.
The honor guard of Elgin American Legion Post 57 did a three-volley salute, the Illinois Patriot Guard brought U.S. flags, two buglers played taps, and the Rev. Tim Perry and Al Keating, chaplain of the Elgin Police Department, led the service attended by about 50 people.
Henke served in the U.S. Navy in his 20s and wrote in a blog in which he called himself "houseless not homeless."
"In his mind, homeless meant something that he was not -- ever," Perry said. "He had friends who he served and received care from. He found joy in the little things that we might take for granted."
Henke died of heart disease, according to Kane County Coroner Rob Russell. He would have turned 58 on June 12, the day after his body was found by police officers during a welfare check at his dwelling in the woods in Elgin. Henke's last blog entry was May 23.
The ceremony at the cemetery was heartwarming, said Leslie Lux of Streamwood, who visited and communicated regularly with Henke. Lux was among a small group of close friends who attended the scattering of Henke's ashes at his campsite.
Inside his tent, still standing but in disarray, a calendar was open on the page for May.
"Doug was a complicated person," Lux said. He was estranged from his family and battled bipolar disorder and alcoholism. At the time of his death, however, he'd been making plans for the next chapter of his life, Lux said.
"If there was ever a time that he had to go," she said, "I'm so glad that it was when he was on the cusp of a new adventure and excited about opportunities in his life."
Friend Eric Henderson of Glendale Heights said the campsite remembrance was a good way to get closure and say goodbye to Henke, who preferred solitude and loved to be in nature.
Henderson said he met Henke while doing volunteer work with residents of Tent City, Elgin's outdoor homeless encampment where Henke lived for a time. Later, Henke moved to a more secluded area on his own.
The day's organizers were Dan and Joy Symonds, owners of Symonds-Madison Funeral Home in Elgin.
The city donated a grave in the cemetery's veterans section, and the Symonds and Perry obtained donations for other costs. Joy Symonds said she got permission from the campsite property owner to hold the remembrance.
"I just thought there was something poetic," she said, "about laying him to rest where he had the most joy."