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My Buddy Hank Huizinga By Don Gillett, LAFD retired


Growing up, Hank and I lived about four blocks from each other in Eagle


Rock. We attended the same schools, played ball with the same little league, and we knew of each other on the job – he a longtime engineer at FS 1 and me at 25’s. But Hank and I didn’t finally meet until the latter part of our careers with this great fire department.


Hank was at 50’s when I transferred over there in 1972. Ours was an instant


friendship and remained that way for 45 years. We had lots of good times and experi- ences – like water skiing, snow skiing, and handball, along with frog whomping and dove hunting out of my boat on the Kings River. One time in Mammoth, we put a notice on the bulletin board that two LA


firemen whose ages totaled 100 – Hank was 53 and I was 47 – challenged all comers to a doubles handball game for lunch and beers. It was difficult to play at 8,000 ft, but I put my faith in Hank’s long arms and big hands and we were able to pull off a win. I was 41 years old when Hank convinced me to first take up snow skiing. We


skied together for many years until Hank decided to hang up his skis because he was afraid he would knock us down getting off the lift – which he did a few times. He was 78 at that time. I did get him back on skis once when he was 80 because he got a free pass and other perks that day. Hank’s first wife, Julie, was the light of his life in those early years. She


ended up with Alzheimer’s disease which lasted for seven years. He met his second wife, Star, and they had a good life together, then she came down with Alzheimer’s


L to R: Hank Huizinga, Bert Jenkins, Ray Martin, Don Gillett


too. He was so true to both wives, going to see them most every day – a devoted husband for sure.


Hank had a bad stroke about a year and a half ago and ended up in the same


room with Star. Reedley is about 120 miles roundtrip from my mountain home near Shaver Lake, but my caregiver and I always visited Hank and Star a couple of times a month.


Last September, my friend Henry O. Huizinga, Jr. passed away at the age of 91. My buddy is gone and I will forever miss him.


Task Force 50 circa 1979. L to R: Don Gillett, Tom Petrich, Ray Vasquez, Pete Ross, Hank Huizinga, Troy Bonar, Harold Stephens, Jr., Herb Johnston, Mark Stormes, John Sanchez, Chester Port, Richard Elias, Don Ford


March 2017 • 61


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