March 20, 2009
Saying goodbye to Chief Golden Hawke
By GEOFF DALE - Ingersoll Times
With the passage of Clarence Henhawke on January 20th, the community of Ingersoll, ON, lost a genuine and irreplaceable treasure, his family a wonderful husband, dotting father and loving grand and great-grandfather and me a true friend.
When I first met him years ago I was searching for a news feature for The Sentinel-Review or The Times -- a community-based story I hoped would engage the reader, unearth tidbits of local history and ultimately reveal personal insights that intrigue us all.
With his trademark knowing grin, love of a good prank and an uncanny knack for transforming the simplest tale into an utterly fascinating story all of us could revel in, he was a young (or old) reporterís dream come true.
But for me he also became a real personal friend -- a man who could brighten up an otherwise dreary humdrum afternoon into several hours of laugh-filled conversation in a local coffee shop over cups of tea, coffee or whatever the beverage-of-the-day was.
To his countless friends, he was simply Chief. To family members he was Dad, Papa and Papa Chief -- a loving fellow who encouraged each of them to pursue their goals, whether art or sport.
You could find him perched on a bleacher anywhere in Oxford County on a burning-hot summerís day, enthusiastically cheering on a grandson, niece or nephew; braving a chilly evening in the local hockey arena or gazing at a piece of art with wonder in his eyes.
To his adoring family he was and always will be their number one fan and supporter.
Born on August 2, 1931 in Hagersville and married October 28, 1950 to Marjorie Ileen Campbell, the couple had four children, nine grandchildren, 13 great grandchildren and friends, relatives and admirers too numerous to mention.
Moving to Ingersoll in 1939, he enjoyed a much-deserved reputation as a hard worker and one of the communityís most prominent sports figures. At the age of 21 he organized a local lacrosse team, initiated roller hockey action against such teams as the London Techumsehs and formed the Ingersoll Warriors, a squad that played exhibition matches against Detroit-based opponents.
Strong and agile, Clarence excelled in contact sports like lacrosse, boxing, hockey and, later in life, professional wrestling. It was the latter where, for years, he made a name in the "squared circle" as Chief Joseph Henhawke (later Chief Golden Hawke) -- a good guy in scripted sports entertainment that audiences loved to cheer.
During one of our chats heíd recalled bouts with the likes of Skull Nurenburg, nights alongside Canadaís legendary Whipper Billy Watson, remembering the time he was tossed out of the ring by the late Andre the Giant and those countless evenings when he was brutalized by everyoneís favorite grappling villain the late Dick the Bulldog Brower.
Whatever the event, game or match, he always spoke with a genuine sense of pride. A well-deserved member of Ingersollís Sports of Hall, he also loved to share those movements of devilment with that ever-present smile.
On one occasion he recalled, after a pro wrestling match in Toronto in the Ď70s, how he misled a rather gullible young female reporter from the Globe and Mail into believing he had just arrived in Canada, making his appearance as a proud member of a native family from wind-swept Oklahoma.
Clarence -- the master story teller -- never let up, weaving the wonderful tale without pause and hesitation.
It simply didnít matter what Clarence was talking about -- whether he was relating brutally long evenings of training for his wrestling escapades, after a full day on the job miles away or telling you about the artistic or sports achievements of his beloved family members.
In the rough and tumble world of sports, he was one-of-a-kind -- a gentleman. Unlike this column, his story really has no end.
Clarence was just a great guy and, at the end of the day, I owe him one thing -- Iím a better person for having known him. Itís a sentiment Iím certain countless others share.
Geoff Dale is a freelance writer from Woodstock, Ontario.