Getting to Know: Jay Hencken


Note: This is a follow up to the previous article about the 9/11 candlelight vigil at Genoa-Kingston Middle School tonight at 7 p.m. The ceremony was initiated by Carol Hencken, who is a teacher at the school. Her husband, Jay, is a retired fire fighter from Washington DC. The couple lives in Genoa, IL.

Jay Hencken:

“I retired from the Washington DC Fire Department after 27-and-a-half years. City fire departments are a tight Brotherhood. We were very active with Chicago, New York, Boston, Philly, the largest cities. We always went Marching in the St. Patrick’s Day parades and anytime there was a line of duty death we always got the buses together and represented and tried to show respect for the Fallen Brothers. We got to know each other and were always welcomed.

“I remember there was a time when my wife and I went to New York, got off a bus at the Port Authority and we went by Engine 54 and Ladder 4 Midtown New York company. It was very cold. We went inside and started talking. They were just getting ready to sit down for breakfast and invited Carol and me. As we were sharing stories and eating breakfast, both engine and truck were dispatched on a call and the guys turned around and said, “Just finish your breakfast.” We left a nice thank-you note on their table, and after that we continued on with our tour of New York that day.

911 FD Badge“We used to have other City Department guys stop in our stations and we always tried to show them a good time. I knew quite a few of the guys who died in the towers. We had two guys who came from New York and worked in DC. One stayed retired as a battalion chief with DC. The other was assigned to my station. After working a few years in DC, he missed New York, went back, took the test and got hired. I think now he’s finally retired. They were always a great bunch of guys and a hoot to work with.

“My two daughters growing up became UCA All Star cheerleaders and had opportunities to March in the Thanksgiving parade in Philadelphia. My contacts through Local 36 Washington DC to Philadelphia Local 22 got my family VIP tickets, reserved front row seats, and we were lucky enough to sit on the grandstand in front of the Art Museum. Things like that are what keep us all together, while each year that goes by seems to get harder for me as I get older and as I look back.

“I’m glad I’m retired and don’t miss the politics. My wife is a middle school teacher who has had a 7 p.m. 9/11 vigil every year for the past 16 years. This may be her last one, as she is thinking of retiring and hopes other faculty members will continue the tradition. We are nothing without our history. The kids at her school weren’t even born when this tragedy happened. Tonight at 7 p.m. there will be a Candlelight vigil in front of the Middle School if you’re interested in coming and seeing what it’s all about.”