The Western Reserve Local Schools community has been reeling from the recent death of Henning, 17, of Norwalk. Dr. Diane Scala-Barnett, Lucas County coroner, has said the frozen body discovered early Monday on the river bank underneath the Anthony Wayne Bridge was Henning’s and once the toxicology report is completed, his death will be ruled a suicide. The teenager was last seen Sunday afternoon at Kalahari, where he worked for three months as a deep-water lifeguard.
“It has been an indescribable week. My heart is broken,” said Stephanie Wetzel, who teaches third grade at Western Reserve Elementary School.
Henning, a junior at Western, was one of Wetzel’s students in the third grade and was good friends with her son.
“I am going to miss all the laughter. He had a great sense of humor and the boys were always laughing together. Damian liked to bring the guys together. He was always hosting the boys at his house because he had the best internet and they could all play their video games. He could be quiet, but very kind and friendly, always including others,” Wetzel said.
Bonnie Jackson, Henning’s mother, described her son as “an obsessive video-gamer.” She remembered hearing him playing online games in the basement and loudly joking with his friends over his headset.
“He taught himself keyboard. He would play songs in the basement,” Jackson added.
Henning also was remembered for being caring and “very helpful,” making sure he packed lunches for his sisters — Mikaylah, 14; Audree, 11; and Graycee — and driving them to school, his mother said.
“All of his friends said he was a genius,” Jackson recalled with a chuckle. “He never studied.”
‘Great teammate,’ asset to Western schools
Henning also was an athlete. As an eighth-grader, he was the Firelands Conference cross country champion.
Brad Perkins coached Henning in seventh through 10th grade.
“It was an honor and privilege to coach him for four years in cross country,” said Perkins, who has spent the last 25 years at Western Reserve. “He (was) the definition of a great teammate. He was always positive and upbeat and kept the whole team loose.”
The coach and teacher also remembered Henning “was always very, very proud” to run a 5K in his late father’s honor each year on his own.
Henning didn’t run cross country this past season but instead played golf.
“I see how many people cared for Damian,” Perkins said. “There is help out there.”
The Western Reserve Teen Leadership Corps class paid tribute to Henning on Twitter this week.
“Rest in peace to one of our TLC members. Family Fridays won’t be the same without … Damian,” according to the tweet.
Superintendent Rodge Wilson described Henning as “a real asset to the building” who was a “very responsible” student who earned “good grades” and was a good athlete.
“He (was) very well-liked,” Wilson said. “Our hearts go out to his friends and family. This is a tough place to be in.”
Laughter, singing like an angel
Henning was best friends with junior Kaden Boswell for several years.
“Kaden and Damian ran cross country together for three years and golfed together this year. There's a close group of boys that hang out together and as one of the moms, I got to run them around for birthday parties at Sky Zone, the movies and fast-food joints. It's amazing how loud boys can sing along to a favorite tune like ‘Country Road’ when they get together in a car,” said Kaden’s mother, Yvonne Boswell, an assistant varsity volleyball coach at Western.
“Damian and the whole group would stay at my house on numerous occasions. I may have complained that they ate all the food, but I loved having all of them there laughing, eating and staying up late. Damian was always full of smiles and quick-witted jokes that kept us all laughing,” she added.
“We will miss him immensely at the Boswell house.”
Deb Henry, elementary school music teacher, taught Henning from kindergarten through sixth grade in general music classes. She also is teaching his sisters.
“He was very musically gifted,” Henry said. “He was such a good kid. I just can’t process this. He sang like an angel. Fly high, Damian.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Managing editor Joe Centers contributed to this story.