Hun­dreds cel­e­brate Denny Hen­nen

Chattanooga Times Free Press - ChattanoogaNow - - VOICES - Con­tact Barry Courter at bcourter@times­freep­ress.com or 423-757-6354.

I be­lieve most of us would say our lives had been mean­ing­ful if we had in­flu­enced or im­pacted some­one else’s life in a pos­i­tive way. Help­ing even one per­son in a big way would con­sti­tute a life well-lived in many peo­ple’s eyes.

Whether through a seem­ingly sim­ple en­cour­ag­ing word at the right time or with a big­ger ges­ture, like be­ing there with bail money or a couch to sleep on when things get tough, most of us would like to know we’ve made a dif­fer­ence. The thing is, we don’t al­ways know, and re­ally, the peo­ple who do things for oth­ers don’t ever ex­pect to be told they helped, much less thanked.

So, I can’t imag­ine how Denny Hen­nen felt af­ter sev­eral hun­dred peo­ple gath­ered at Revelry Room two weeks ago to say “Thanks.” And, to say good­bye. Denny is ill, and this event was put to­gether and at­tended by peo­ple who love him.

At the fu­neral for Denny’s brother, Johnny, last year, some­one sug­gested to me that I do a story on all of the peo­ple the Hen­nens have put through col­lege over the years. Raise your hand if you’ve ever worked at Yes­ter­day’s, Hen­nen’s, Big River or Bones Smoke­house, or if you’ve ever worked in a bar or restau­rant that bought beer from Denny through Beasley Dis­tribut­ing. It’s a pretty stag­ger­ing num­ber, and that was re­flected by the num­ber of peo­ple inside the event at Revelry, as well as the num­ber of folks on the wait­ing list out­side hop­ing to get in.

Any­one who was there, and re­ally any­one who knows Denny or brother Tim, or who knew Johnny, knows that the Hen­nens have their own way of show­ing af­fec­tion. So

I can’t print much of what was re­ally said dur­ing the evening in a fam­ily news­pa­per, but it was said with a great deal of love, re­spect and car­ing.

I called Johnny’s house once and when he an­swered I said, “Johnny, it’s Barry.” His re­sponse: “So.”

That’s when I knew he liked me.

Dr. Keith Hel­ton, who is mar­ried to Mary Hen­nen, of­fered a guide to in­ter­pret­ing “Den­nyisms” dur­ing the event. His list was funny, and also ac­cu­rate and not fully quotable here. If he ever said, “Hey, Buddy” or “Hey, pretty lady,” for ex­am­ple, it meant Denny had no idea who you were.

Also, if Denny ever told you to go pound salt, or it’s more vul­gar equiv­a­lent, while be­ing not even phys­i­cally pos­si­ble, it meant that he truly cared for you … or, that he ac­tu­ally wanted you to go pound salt.

Now, any­one who knows Denny knows that this was not sup­posed to be a mushy event. Not his style. It was, how­ever, a chance for so many peo­ple who have been touched in some way or an­other to say thank you for be­ing a friend, a men­tor, a boss or a per­son to share a laugh.

Barry Courter

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