A photo of Joey Henderson and his friends and family.
credit: Photo by Ken Martin

Duane “Joey” Henderson died of a heart attack on Wednesday, March 29, 2017. Joey lived at the field in Fort Reno Park for the past several years, where he was highly regarded by many Tenleytown neighbors. According to friend Jim Steen, he was a friendly guy who was “independent, intelligent, and articulate.”

Steen and Henderson first met when Henderson initiated a conversation while Steen was walking around the Fort Reno baseball diamond. They bonded over a shared interest in sports. Henderson read the Post sports section thoroughly whenever he had the chance, according to Steen. He would learn nearly every sports stat in the paper and keep up to date with his favorite teams. Henderson and Steen enjoyed having “strongly opinionated and well-informed conversations” on the current standings of various teams, recalled Steen.

They saw each other regularly when Steen brought him groceries. Henderson often included crackers on his list to be used as feed for the dozen or so birds that stayed in the trees near where he lived. Henderson delighted in feeding the birds that came to wait for him.

Henderson was “a gregarious guy, particularly with those in the neighborhood where he lived.” Steen said he was well loved by his neighbors, who often stopped by to chat or check in during the colder months. He preferred to live outside, only staying in shelters when his health forced him to do so.

An outdoor memorial service was held on April 22 by Reverend Sam McFerran of the First Congregational United Church of Christ. McFerran had known Henderson personally since he began living at the field. The service included a song, prayer, testimonials and a flower planting in Henderson’s honor. Twelve people — housed and unhoused — attended the intimate service, including those who frequently stopped by to chat or drop off food and other necessities.

A photo of a flower

Photo by Ken Martin

While his friends described Henderson as kind and personable, he was quite guarded with personal information. Henderson shared few details about his personal history or relationships. Even his real name is shrouded in uncertainty.

Neighborhood acquaintance Danna McCormick and Steen believe Henderson’s real name to be Hans Berger. From what Steen was able to gather over the course of their friendship, Henderson’s mother was an American who met his German father toward the end of World War II.

While his identity and past were a mystery, his positive attitude and kind nature will be remembered. Joey Henderson was loved by his community and will be missed.