The party was a celebration of life of Henry Kemp. Linda had never met Henry and I only knew him as a fellow Boat Captain in the service of the club's Sailing School. We were perhaps the most uneducated people in the room in matters pertaining to Henry.
My memories of Henry began with both of us looking for the only two extra large life jackets supplied by BCYC Sailing School. Once we were properly attired he’d say “Let’s go have some fun today!” and off we’d go.
Henry was a Hanky Panky Yankee
A microphone was passed around and the stories began with Henry’s niece who called him the “Hanky Panky Yankee” in memory of his many escapades in younger years. Henry and his brother liked to jump off a certain bridge into the river. She said the town cops could never catch them because Henry always had someone in a boat below, or so it seemed until one day it was a police boat stationed below and the young miscreants were detained.
The Neighborhood Improvement Committee
Henry was a bit of a joker as well. One speaker told the story of getting phone calls from someone claiming to be the “Neighborhood Improvement Committee” calling to inform him of things he needed to do to keep his house up to “standards”.
He noticed that the phone calls coincided with the appearance of Felicity, Henry’s sailboat, and one day he decided to make a statement. Knowing that Henry usually sailed alone, the hapless home owner stripped off his clothes in his water front yard, turned around and touched his toes only to hear hoots and howls of laughter coming from Felicity.
He said there was not one place on the entire boat not covered with people pointing and laughing at him and Henry was the most vocal of them all.
A tearful thin man took the microphone
and said that Henry took him sailing on Felicity even though he was a confirmed power boater. I won’t name this person or any others as you may know them, however the story he told us that Easter Sunday continues.
“Go to the bow” Ordered Henry
“Just do it”
“OK, now what?”
“Just do it”
“OK, now what?”
The speaker’s voice broke as he barely whispered into the microphone
“That was the first time I heard the water.”
He said Henry explained later that what he heard for the first time in his life was serenity and he had a choice to make. “Henry saved my life that day” he said. And as you might guess Henry’s lessons had more to do with life than they did with sailing.
Henry saved my life
We began to notice that nearly everyone who spoke began with or said that “Henry saved my life”. Realization gradually came to us that these were the people Henry saved from drugs and alcohol and that he was able to do this because he was one of them.
It solved the mystery as to why the large crowd was so joyful and sad and loud on this solemn Easter Sunday morning: They were following his advice.
“Let’s go have some fun today!”