Howard Henrikson Served Nation and Island
Howard Russell Henrikson, 87, died on July 8 at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. He was flown there from Martha's Vineyard Hospital early Sunday morning with severe complications from a stroke, and passed peacefully, in a coma, with his wife, Betty, son Douglas and daughter Susan at his side. It was the way Howard wished to depart this life, quickly and after a full and active day on his beloved Vineyard. For that, his family gives thanks.
Mr. Henrikson was born in Providence, R.I., on May 31, 1915, the son of Arthur G. Henrikson and Ruby A. Hulting. Coming of age in the depth of the depression years, Howard held jobs during the day to support his family, attending night school classes at Northeastern University in Boston. He spent several years in retail credit management in Baltimore, Trenton, N.J., and Providence with the old Bond clothing store chain gaining valuable business and management skills.
Shortly after Pearl Harbor, Mr. Henrikson enlisted in the Naval Air Corps, training as a naval aviator for carrier duty. His initial training was at Squantum, followed by advanced flight training at Jacksonville and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and San Diego, Calif. Then it was on to the South Pacific, where he was stationed at Henderson Field on Guadalcanal shortly after the Marines had secured that island. When Mr. Henrikson's told his tales of life at a jungle base fraught with heat, insects, malaria and nightly sorties on Japanese targets with enemy Zeros often engaging the marine and navy pilots, he would hold everyone's attention. Some of his most enjoyable moments, he said, came when he was back on base with a refreshing cold Miller High Life or Schlitz beer in hand.
Mr. Henrikson was transferred to the aircraft carrier Princeton and saw combat during the Marshall and Gilbert Island campaigns. After a year of combat duty, he returned home to Providence for a month's leave before being assigned to VT87 at Quonset Point, R.I. From there the squadron was sent to the Martha's Vineyard Naval Air Auxiliary Base, now Martha's Vineyard Airport. It is well known to their many friends that Howard and Betty Wight met that summer of 1944 on the Vineyard. This lovely Island thus became the love of their lives and became, in future years, their retirement home.
Mr. Henrikson spent another year of combat duty in the South Pacific on the carrier Ticonderoga with VT87, in Okinawa and over Japan -- Tokyo Bay -- where on July 24, 1945, his squadron of Avengers sank the battleship Hyuga and cruiser Tone. For this action Mr. Henrikson and his squadron mates received the Navy Cross; in addition, Mr. Henrikson was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses and seven air medals. Yet he felt much happier, he said, dropping care packages over the POW camps in Japan at war's end.
He returned home in October 1945, and he and Betty were married in November. They spent three years in Providence, where son Robert was born in 1948, working in real estate with his stepfather. A move to Windsor, Conn., followed, and Mr. Henrikson was active in the real estate and appraisal field in Hartford for many years. He was manager of the Jefferson Street Medical Building, a subsidiary of Hartford Hospital, with related responsibilities until his retirement in 1980. Two other sons, Richard and John, were born in Hartford in 1956 and 1957.
In 1960, an automobile accident took the lives of Betty's brother, John Wight, and his wife, Harriet. Their three young children, Susan, John Jr. (Jack) and Douglas survived, and joined the Henrikson clan in Windsor. Howard rose nobly to the challenge of raising, with Betty, a large, active family.
The family spent many happy summers on East Chop, and when Mr. Henriksen retired in 1980, it was off to Martha's Vineyard for many rich and fulfilling years. He lived in Edgartown but was so much a part of all of Vineyard life. Mr. Henrikson gave back to his community in many ways -- as a driver for Meals on Wheels, serving on the board of friends of the Council on Aging, active in the Federated Church and the Edgartown Capitol Improvement Committee. His interest and participation in the Experimental Aircraft Association during these last few years was a great joy to him and rekindled his love of flying, and association with those who sparked his enthusiasm. He always looked forward to his gathering of friends at the men's luncheons twice each month.
Mr. Henrikson is survived by his wife, Betty; his sons, Robert W. Henrikson of Hana, Hawaii, Richard Henrikson of Laguna Beach, Calif., John Henrikson of Oakville, Wash., Susan W. Craddock of Savannah, Ga., John B. (Jack) Wight of Seattle, and Douglas D. Wight of Concord, and their families, including seven wonderful grandchildren.
A memorial service in celebration of his life will be held Monday, August 26, at 1 p.m. at the Federated Church in Edgartown. Contributions in his memory may be made to the Federated Church or to Quonset Air Museum, Quonset State Airport, 488 Eccleston avenue, P.O. Box 1571, No. Kingstown, RI 02852. The museum has meticulously restored, named and dedicated an Avenger TBM, which Mr. Henriksen flew in World War II, to honor him.