Death came to Bill Hensler on April 7 as he had always hoped – in his home with his family, surrounded by the artwork he had spent much of his adult life collecting. Bill was born of strict German parents in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, but ventured West at the invitation of “Uncle Sam” in the early 1950’s and never again thought of any home other than Colorado. He climbed many of Colorado’s 14ers; he was an avid hunter and explorer of backroads and trails; and he became a real history buff in one of his parttime jobs as a Denver University student. He held a life-time membership in the Colorado Historical Society. At one point in his later years, he became quite annoyed that he was no longer receiving their regular publications. When he called to complain, he was even more annoyed because the lady implied that, in his 80’s, he was old enough to be dropped from their reading list. This, of course, was unthinkable to Bill! He was soon re-instated to the mailing list…
Bill was a very devoted father to Pat, Kay and Vern. Vacations were always “children included.” The pick-up camper was more than just a summer ride, it was a geography experience all across every state (except Hawaii) in the U.S., most states of Mexico, and all the provinces of Canada. The Hensler family spent 12 years exploring the Canadian Highway, East to West. Only when the children were in college and holding summer jobs, did Bill and his wife, Sue, branch off on their own travels that included visiting 65 foreign countries - a world of cultural studies. At that time, Bill and Sue were designated as a UNESCO host family through Denver’s Hospitality Center, receiving foreign visitors who were sent to the U.S. for various reasons and given an inside look at the American way of life, Hensler style. That usually meant a drive to the Rocky Mountains, a homecooked meal, and a lot of questions and discussions on all topics except politics and religion. Many of these relationships lasted for years.
One of the many highlights of Bill and Sue’s 68 year marriage was the shared passion for Native American art. Together, the Henslers acquired a fantastic art collection while also developing enduring friendships and great respect for cultural differences among the artists. Such is the combined legacy of Bill and Sue Hensler to be donated to the Center of Southwest Studies at Ft. Lewis College in Durango.
A Celebration of Life memorial service will be held in June. Bill touched many lives and will be remembered fondly. It truly was a fulfilling and beautiful life!