In Memory of Jennifer Henke (1946-2014)

Jennifer Henke

Jennifer Henke

Jennifer Elizabeth Henke
(1946 – 2014)

Jennifer Elizabeth Henke of Richmond, California, died on December 27, 2014 in El Cerrito, California, of pancreatic cancer. She was 68 years old.

Jennifer was born in San Francisco in April 1946, daughter of Hans and Susan Jacobsen.  She grew up in Daly City, California. Jenny was youngest of eight siblings: one brother, two half-brothers, and four half-sisters (which works out to two sisters and two brothers, she calculated in elementary school). With so many older siblings, Jenny often felt as if she had extra parents to look after her. Her brother tells that she quickly became the family darling and was doted on by everyone. As a child and teenager, she took trips around the country to visit her older sisters, traveling alone to New Jersey, San Diego, Massachusetts, Milwaukee, and Hawaii.

After high school, Jenny crossed the bay to attend college at the University of California, Berkeley. She attended Berkeley from 1964 to 1966, a period marked by the landmark Free Speech Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, and anti-Vietnam War protests. In college, Jenny was active in the Assemblies of God’s campus Christian group Chi Alpha, where she forged many life-long friendships.

In Berkeley, she met Curtis James Henke and they were married in December 1967 in Berkeley.  Curt and Jenny had two children: Jonathan was born in 1972 and Natasha was born in 1975. Jenny stood by Curt’s side for his many long years in graduate school, and when he was drafted into the army in 1969, she followed him to South Korea for a year. On the army base, Jenny mastered her table tennis game; the GIs were often shocked to be beaten so soundly by a woman.

The young couple was often found camping or hiking in the Sierras or around California, both before and after their kids were born. Jenny’s creative projects with her children included baking a life-size gingerbread girl for Natasha’s 4th birthday and making many elaborate Halloween costumes for both children. Neighbor kids were surprised to discover that it was she who built the kids’ bunk beds, not Curt.

Jenny worked for many years at the UC San Francisco Medical Center as a computer programmer on the STOR system, a pioneering computerized medical record. She retired from UCSF in 2004.

Throughout her adult life, Jenny was active in her church: first at Glad Tidings Temple in San Francisco, then at Hilltop Community Church in Richmond, California, and finally, since 1987, at First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, California. At First Pres., Jenny was a stalwart member of the Chancel Choir, singing in the front row of the alto section for over a quarter century. She was a member of Mariners and of Sunday Morning Study, and served on the church session as a ruling elder from 2011 to 2014.

One of her greatest passions was church drama. When her children were young, Jenny directed many children’s musicals including The Music Machine and Ants’hillvania. At First Pres., she led productions of Cotton Patch Gospel, Godspell, Spread Your Garment Over Me, The Journey with Jonah, A Christmas Carol, The Complete History of the Old Testament in 20 Minutes, and more. She also acted in Candles in the Window and in community productions of Arsenic and Old Lace, The Sound of Music, and more.

In 1997, with both kids out of college, Jenny set off on an adventure, traveling for the first time to the Faroe Islands, the small North Atlantic island group where her father had been born and raised. She was hoping to find her father’s family, 75 years after he lost touch with them. She arrived with only a few letters written to her father in the early 1900s and the name of the city where he was born.  After several short phone calls, she discovered a large family in the Faroes who loved and remembered her father, and who were overjoyed to meet her.  Over the next seventeen years, the Faroe Islands became her second home; she visited nearly every year and lived there for an entire year in 2005–6. In the Faroe Islands, she nurtured her love of photography, and scores of her photos and travel stories can be found at She wrote of her adventures that first year and the discovery of her father’s history in her book, The Missing Son: A Faroe Island Saga.

During the past five years, Jenny became especially close to her grandson Eliott Jacob, whom she cared for two days a week.  They had many adventures together: going to the library, building elaborate train tracks, making creations with legos, and riding scooters and bikes. (Actually, Jenny usually chased while Eliott rode.) Her biggest sadness during the months of her illness was knowing that she wouldn’t be there to see Eliott grow up.

While traveling in the Faroe Islands in summer 2014, Jenny began to feel sick. She was hospitalized in Tórshavn, Faroe Islands, transported back to California, and diagnosed with with an aggressive form of pancreatic cancer. She had surgery to remove the tumor, but the cancer had already begun to spread and she declined quickly. She spent her final month living with her daughter’s family.

Jenny was preceded in death by her husband Curt, who died in 1999 at the age of 54, also of cancer; her siblings Stanley Miller, Erma Honsalek, and Roberta Mack; and her parents, Hans and Susan Jacobsen.

Jenny is survived by her daughter Natasha Jacob, son-in-law John Jacob, and grandson Eliott Jacob, all of El Cerrito, California; son Jonathan Henke and his partner Blake Couey, of St. Peter, Minnesota; brother Peter Jacobsen, of Prunedale, California; brother Harold Miller, of Medford, Oregon; sister Susan Story, of Dallas, Texas; and sister Miriam Massey, of Denair, California.


If desired, memorial gifts may be made to:

First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley
Attn: Chancel Choir Tour
2407 Dana St.
Berkeley, CA 94704

Contra Costa Civic Theater
951 Pomona Ave.
El Cerrito, CA 94530

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Memorial Service

All are welcome at a memorial service honoring the life of Jennifer Henke.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015
3:00 pm

First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley
2407 Dana St. (at Channing Way)
Berkeley, CA 94704

In Memory of Jennifer Henke (1946-2014) (photos)

Jennifer Elizabeth Henke of Richmond, California, died on December 27, 2014 in El Cerrito, California, of pancreatic cancer. She was 68 years old. Full obituary

Nordic Obsession Tour – Part 6

The last day of our tour was a full one.  We first went to Kirkjubøur, which was the church and cultural center of the Faroes during the middle ages.  The small white parish church has been an active church since about 1100.  The majestic stone cathedral, built in the 1200’s now has a protective roof to prevent more deterioration. The old log smoke-house and museum contains many interesting artifacts from Faroese history.

After lunch we drove north on Streymoy along the sound facing Eysturoy.  Our first stop was at the octagonal church in Haldorsvík, where we met with Stanley Samuelsen for a short private concert, first in the church and then in his grandfather’s home nearby.  We had time for conversation, music, and coffee.

Our special farewell dinner was at Koks restaurant on the hill overlooking Tórshavn.  Two of us ordered the wine menu with the dinner, pairing a wine with each course of the meal – a total of seven wines.  Fortunately, I had a friend nearby who finished off each glass for me.  This restaurant was recently reviewed in one of the American gourmet magazines.  I read the review on facebook.

The next morning I returned to Fuglafjørður, Jon went to the airport, and the other 3 went to Gøta for the G! Festival.




Nordic Obsession Tour – Part 5

On Sunday, four of us went to church – an Anglican, a Presbyterian, a Mormon, and a Charismatic – in a Lutheran church in Old Town Tórshavn.  The guest preacher was Uni Næs, my former priest in Fuglafjørður. During the afternoon we were joined by Arni Zachariassen and Jákup á Lakjuni for a discussion about religion, politics, and everything else.  Símun and Kári, my relatives, let us use their living room for our discussion, and then then provided cakes, tea, and coffee afterward.  Immediately following the refreshments, our tour returned to the hotel to have dinner and discussion with Birgir Kruse.

The next morning we caught the early ferry to Suðuroy, a two hour boat trip, passing several islands on our way south.  We were met in Tvøroyri by Mortan Holm, our tour guide for the day (in our now cosily crowded car).  We visited every town on Suðuroy, though I am not sure which town is which.

Our evening ended with a private concert with Elin Heinesen and her daughter in Elin’s home in Tórshavn.  Beautiful.

Nordic Obsession Tour – Part 4

Our tour took us to my town of Fuglafjørður, where my neighbor Oddur served as tour guide, and then he joined us for lunch at my house.  Sorry, I was so busy I forgot to take pictures.  From Fuglafjørður we headed to the northern islands, going through two long, dark,one-lane tunnels.  I was glad someone else was driving this year.  We had a late dinner back in Tórshavn, since the restaurant in Klaksvík was closed.

The next day we met up with Tollakur, who was our tour guide on the island of Vágar.  We stopped for a late lunch at the airport, where we saw the stained glass birds by Tróndur Patursen, back home from their trip to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.  We viewed some of the boat races in Miðvágar, and I saw the boat from Fuglafjørður win its race.  In the evening, we were the only guests for a concert with Marius Ziska and Heðin Davidsen at the home of Elin Heinesen.  It was a full day.

Nordic Obsession Tour – Part 3

Our Nordic Obsession Tour was small enough to travel around the islands by car, with 5 (or sometimes 6) of us in a 7-seater car that comfortably held 4, with room for backpacks and jackets in the back.

Our next scenic destination was a boat ride to the Vestmanna Bird Cliffs along the north western coast of Streymoy.  These cliffs are full of waterfalls, sea stacks, and sea caves and arches.  Unfortunately, they are no longer filled with birds, apparently due to warmer waters that don’t support the sea creatures that serve as food for the birds.  Before our boat ride, we took a scenic detour to the little village of Kvívík and saw some Viking-era excavations at the edge of the bay.

Our day ended with a concert in the home of Elin Heinesen, a great venue for a small band.


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