Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Russ

Russ Henman in K-Mart parking lot October 11, 2009


This morning I've been thinking long and hard about what to post today for the Fourth.  Of course the obvious is something patriotic.  I post a picture of the flag.  Post something about how great it is to live in this country, which for all its faults (and we have plenty) is the best country on this planet.  But a recent event keeps intruding in my mind that I feel I have to post.  And that is the untimely death of a kind and gentle man named Russell Henman.

I didn't know Russ well but I did know him.

Sunday morning, October 11, 2009 I parked my car in the K-Mart parking lot to wait for the Camp Rehoboth sponsored bus to take me and others to the National Equality March in Washington D.C.

I was early.  There was on other car in the parking lot.  A big guy got out of his car and walked over to me and introduced himself to me.  He said "Hi, I'm Russ." I was somewhat taken by surprise because most of the gay community down here in the Rehoboth Beach area is pretty cliquish and not prone to introduce themselves to a stranger unless that stranger has been prescreened by their friends first.

The first thing I thought was "This guy is trying to pick me up."  That's what we gay guys think when a stranger approaches us.  Well, he wasn't my type because he was a big "Teddy Bear" kind of guy and a bit on the "gay" side.  By the way, I make no apologies for saying someone is "a bit on the gay side."  You all understand what I mean.  I don't always abide by the current political correctness rules.

After exchanging some small talk I realized that this guy was just being friendly and not on the make.  There is a difference.  And again, I was surprised because of his open friendly attitude.  I liked him.

I asked if I could take his picture.  He said "Sure!  Here, let me stand beside my car." He posed and I took his picture.  I asked him for his e-mail address so I could send the picture to him.  He suggested his Facebook account.  We became Facebook friends.

That was two years ago.  I never saw him in person again but I often saw his postings on Facebook.  I could tell from his postings that Russ was a very popular guy.  And I knew why, because he was a truly nice guy.  No false airs about him.  He reminded me a lot of my longtime friend Big Bob.

Me and my friend "Big Bob"

Big Bob, who I just returned from a visit this morning, I met when I was in the Army in 1960.  We have been good friends ever since.  Big Bob was also a big guy (hence the nickname "Big Bob", duh).  Although Bob was gay (something I never knew while we were friends in the Army), I wasn't sexually attracted to him nor he to me.  However, I did like his personality.  Bob was and is a truly nice guy.  No false airs about him.  Big Bob is the kind of guy who welcomes strangers, just like Russ welcomed me that day in the K-Mart parking lot.

Yesterday, I saw a story on the front page of our local newspaper, The Cape Gazette.


"Cyclist dies in crash outside Rehoboth Beach"


I casually looked at the story because there are a lot of cyclists in Rehoboth during this busy season.  I worry about them because of the heavy traffic and crazy drivers.  I limit my travel into Rehoboth because of all the cyclists.  

When I saw the name "Henman", I recognized the name.  My first thought was "Oh no, this couldn't be Russ."   I read further.  It was Russ.  

A wave of sadness immediately swept over me.  Even though I didn't know Russ well, I felt an immediate loss.  

Russ was hit from behind after leaving a friend after 2:00 a.m. in the morning. Earlier he had spent time at a local gay bar then, after the bar went with a friend to get a pizza and a soda and talk to his friend.  After their conversation he got on his bike to go to his new home across the busy Route 1.  A bartender, who was later proven to be drunk, hit him from behind.  He carried Russ's body on the hood of his car for 400 feet before hitting a curb which propelled Russ's body to the ground.  Russ died at the scene. 

The driver of the car that hit Russ attempted to flee the scene of the accident but Russ's bicycle was caught under his car.  He stopped and tried to remove the bicycle.  That's when the police apprehended him.

I don't mean to make the tragedy of Russ losing his life about me.  That is not why I wrote this post.  My purpose is to illustrate how fleeting life is.  We're here one minute and just like that, we're gone.  

This is why I believe that we should live every moment like it is our last.  Of course be reasonable about it, don't break the bank account fulfilling your Bucket List but do live by doing what you want to do.  Be kind to people and animals.  Don't waste your time on activities or people who bring you down.  

Russ may have had a short life but from what I see now, the outpouring of love from his Facebook friends, his many friends in the gay and straight community of Rehoboth and his many other friends, I would say Russ lived a good life.

This kind and gentle man will be missed greatly by many but he will not be forgotten.  

Rest in peace my friend.  

4 comments:

  1. How terrible :-(

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    1. Cubby,

      This is very sad. Just another reminder how fragile life is. Russ was one of the most alive persons I've ever known.

      Ron

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  2. Heartbreaking.
    I had a similar experience a few years back while living in California.
    I was thumbing through the newspaper and thought I'd look at the obituaries--something I never did.
    There was the name of one of my childhood best friends, who had dies in Oklahoma--his family still lived in California, hence the obituary.
    He was my best friend in 7th grade. He was, I found out later, also gay. But he moved away from his friends and family as soon as he graduated from high school because he couldn't tell them. He died, leaving his partner behind, but his family never met the man.
    I remember him too well, and wish he'd been able to come out and be open.
    The sadness of the closet.

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    Replies
    1. Bob,

      You understand. I didn't know Russ that well but I was impressed by his friendliness towards me that day in the parking lot. He wasn't a come on, just a friendly guy which was so unusual here where most of the gays are either from Washington D.C. or New York and not very friendly. We became Facebook friends and I was again surprised at how popular he was because he was a big guy and not butch but in spite of that he was always upbeat and happy. People like Russ have always impressed me with their positive attitude in spite of all the reasons they should be depressed. All the nice things said about him after he died this tragic death were so true. Even though I didn't know Russ that well, I feel a sense of loss. Such a waste. It turns out that the man who killed him was a bartender at the bar where Russ was that night. So sad. Two lives wasted.

      Ron

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