Friday, July 27, 2012

DESTINY - David G. Henner

I was at Waldheim Jewish Cemetery recently doing some Find a Grave photography when I happened upon an unusual tombstone.

It had a photograph of the departed on the tombstone, as many do at Waldheim, but this one had something extra - a sculptured figure entitled "Destiny" attached to the tombstone as well.

The sculpture was signed by the person buried underneath it:  David G. Henner.  Here is the photo of David above the sculpture on the tombstone:

According to immigration records, David G. Henner was born May 25, 1898 in Russia to Morris and Anna (nee Kahn).  David came to the US with his mother and two of his siblings Herman and Bennie in 1907 sailing from Libau, Latvia. They arrived November 30, 1907 on the SS Arconia.  The Henners listed their nationality as "Hebrew".  They joined the head of their family Morris Henner, who came to the U.S. in 1906 and was a plumber by trade.

The 1910 Census shows the Henner family as living at 1507 Spaulding Avenue - now a vacant lot:

1507-09 S. Spaulding, Chicago
In addition to David, his parents and brothers Herman and Bennie there was a new arrival - another boy Reuben, born in 1909.

David's 1918 draft registration tells us he is a "Botanist" with the Field Museum.  Not bad for a twenty-year-old.  Here is the Field Museum of Natural History circa 1918:

Photo Courtesy
By the 1920 census, the Henner family has started to bloom.  The family has moved to 2048 W. Division Street.  

2048 W. Division Street, Chicago

Herman has become Hyman, Bennie is now Benjamin and Reuben is Robert.  Twenty-one year old David lists his occupation as "sculptor" and his employer as the Field Museum.  In fact, the photo of David that is on his tombstone was taken while he was at work at the Field Museum:

David Henner in Stanley Field Plant Reproduction Lab working on model of Couroupita
(Cannon Ball Tree) flowers, 1924.

Surprisingly the trail on David Henner comes to an end here.  He is listed as a sculptor in "Who Was Who In American Art" but all his listing says is that he died c1925 and that he had exhibited some of his work at the Art Institute of Chicago.

In fact, if I had not stood right in front of his tombstone, I couldn't even prove that he had died.  There is a reference in a Family Tree on that states that he died on September 14, 1925 "In Lake Michigan".  However, I was not able to locate a death certificate for him, and there was no obituary or even a death notice for him in the Chicago Tribune.  This was a surprise to me.  Although not world famous (yet) he was talented and famous enough to exhibit at the Art Institute.  I can't believe that the Tribune did not print an obituary for him, but there is no record of one in the Tribune Archives.

Unfortunately, as far as I am concerned, thus ends the story of David G. Henner.  A talented immigrant, as so many were, who not only was employed as a Botanist at the Field Museum, he was also a sculptor and exhibited some of his work at the Art Institute of Chicago.  At the brink of fame his life was cut short, probably by drowning in Lake Michigan at the age of 27.

If anyone knows anything more about David or his work I would happily share it here.

David G. Henner - Botanist, Sculptor.  May he rest in peace.

Addendum:  Fellow graver and Chicago Police Detective William F. Kazupski found the following comment about David Henner from the 1925 Annual Report of the Field Museum:  "(A model) of the Victoria regia was the last of the many creditable pieces of work produced by David Henner, before his untimely death by accidental drowning while swimming at the Dunes. ..."  Many thanks to Detective Kazupski who has been a faithful follower of this blog from the beginning. 

1 comment:

  1. My father, David G Henner, was born in 1928 and was named after his deceased uncle. I believe the reason not much is mentioned about my great uncle's death is because it was not accidental. It was self inflicted.