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Obituary: Frederick Asmus Henningsen III ’46

Frederick Asmus Henningsen III (aka Gramfred, BrmBrm, Father Fred and The Whistler) died of natural causes at the age of 86 on May 3, 2007. His wife is an Antiochian, as is their son.

Fred was born in 1920 in Butte, to Hazel and Frederick. He was the middle of five children (four boys and one girl) and is survived by his younger brother, Ted. Fred grew up to an active outdoor life, enjoying many adventures with his brothers in and around Butte. However, he also had a lifelong love of travel and experiencing new places, which may be why he was the only one of his siblings to permanently leave Butte, though Butte was always in his blood.

In early 1940, seeing the World War II handwriting on the wall, Fred volunteered for the Army Air Corps, but on the very day he received orders to report to basic training an evil-tempered horse named Pin Ears threw him into a post, badly breaking his left leg and ending his military career before it started (and radically changing the course of Henningsen history).

After a year's convalescence and a year at the University of Montana (then Montana State University) in Missoula, Fred attended Antioch College, where he met his bride-to-be, Johna McNeill, a fellow Antiochian, while on a work-study assignment at a Packard defense plant in Detroit. Despite mild family opposition (stuck-up Easterner meets hick cowboy), the drop-dead handsome Frederick wed the stunning blonde bombshell Johna on March 28, 1943. In due course, son Ken came along in mid-1944, while Fred was working as a machinist and inspector on the B-29 line at Boeing in Seattle.

After the end of the war, Fred resumed his education, and settled on returning to Missoula and the UM School of Business. He proved to be an excellent student, and by the time son Chris was born in late 1947, Fred was nearing his master's degree and CPA and was teaching beginning accounting courses at UM. After a 20-month stint in the doctoral program at the Wharton Business School of the University of Pennsylvania, the family returned to Missoula and Fred resumed teaching at UM.

Daughter Wendy arrived in 1952, during their several years at Fort Missoula, which then had a number of UM faculty housing units and proved an idyllic playground for two active boys. However, in 1956, the Army insisted on "recapturing" the Fort, forcing the reluctant evacuees to find other housing (it had been a halcyon interval for all). Fred and Johna stretched themselves to buy a comfortable house near the UM campus, which was to be their Missoula home for more than 50 years.

In 1957, their lives took a major turn when Fred was offered an AID assignment at the Karachi Institute of Public and Business Administration in Pakistan. The family (the kids then 13, 9 and 5) packed their bags and headed off for a five-year adventure, which included many trips in Pakistan, Kashmir and India, and camping through Europe, not to mention two trips around the world with numerous other tourist stops along the way.

In 1962 they all returned to Missoula after Fred accepted a professorship in the School of Business Administration at UM. During his long (albeit several times interrupted) teaching career at UM, Fred positively touched the lives of thousands of students, and many no doubt still remember some of his aphorisms ("plan your work and work your plan" and "debits by the window, credits by the wall" were favorites). Thousands more students and colleagues will remember Fred riding to and from class on his 1936 Schwinn, usually whistling various tunes barely recognizably.

Fred served on innumerable university committees and community projects (Meals on Wheels and the Missoula Food Bank among others) and donated many gallons of his O-Negative (universal donor) blood over the years - often on an emergency basis in the middle of the night. He was especially proud of helping to start the first Credit Union in town and of his long involvement with the university retirement plan. He also traveled Montana in early support of the Social Security system.

Life was reasonably settled for another decade until wanderlust struck again in 1973, and Fred took a sabbatical from UM to embark on a two-year contract, teaching at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand. By this time, Ken and Chris had left the nest to families of their own, but Wendy followed her parents to New Zealand and ended up marrying a Kiwi and staying there.

After returning to teach again at UM, Fred retired in 1984, and he and Johna became the ultimate snowbirds, spending spring, summer and fall in Montana and summer (Montana winter, of course) in New Zealand - mostly in Rotorua, where Wendy and her family settled. Their last visit was in 2003-04, after which the long trip was just too difficult.

Fred was rarely idle; he was a keen gardener, woodworker and general handyman (the garage was often too full of tools and projects for a car to fit). He could fix almost anything (including many misbehaving cars on memorable road trips over the years) and took pride in keeping appliances going well past their natural working lives.

His more fastidious children sometimes looked askance at his jerryrigged contraptions, but he never electrocuted anyone or burned down the house. Fred was an open-hearted and generous person who would lend a hand and apply his DlY talents to anyone in need-family, friends, neighbors and even a passing student with a flat tire; nothing was too much of a bother for him.

When Fred did sit down it was usually to read. He was a voracious reader of everything - newspapers, magazines, and books, books, books. He also loved bridge, which was a bit like his handymanning - little need for the finer details of bidding, get a few points and go for slam! However, golf was his favored recreation, and he was well known on the Arikapakapaka golf course - near Wendy's home - easing his gimpy knees with his little "Yamaha nifty fifty" (in lieu of a golf cart, which were rare in Rotorua at the time), and at the Missoula Country Club for many years. His swing was hardly classic, but it got the job done.

Fred managed to spend good chunks of time with all of his kids during the past year and chose to shuffle off this mortal coil at home, just as spring was turning the old crab apple pink outside his bedroom window.

His family (Johnna – Antioch College class of 1945, and their children, Ken – Antioch College class of 1967 -- (Jean), grandchildren, Eric and Ingrid; Chris (Mary Ellen), grandchildren, Megan and Bromley; and Wendy Blackman (Ian) and grandchildren, Sam and Elsie; along with three great-grandchildren) give thanks that they had such a wonderful husband, father and grandfather for so many years.

Fred was preceded in death by his parents, Fred and Hazel Henningsen; his brothers and sisters-in-law, Rex (Jean) and Robert (Ione) Henningsen; and his sister and brother-in-law, Ginny (Gus) Link, all of Butte.

At Fred's request there will be no funeral service.

Memorials: Food Bank.

A midsummer extended-family gathering is planned instead to celebrate his extraordinary life.