Posted 9 months ago
This is information I've gathered about the company owner/artist Dean Hensley:
That is definitely a Hensley piece. Also Dean had the shaper blades used to shape the oak frame stock custom made and only gave them to the frame maker long enough to mill the wood, then he would collect them back to avoid pirating. He was plagued with knockoffs and cheap mass imitations.
Dean was friends with Burton Burton, owner of Casablanca Fan Company. Dean designed the company logo. Burton sold the fan company and retired to an island off of Washington and passed away there a few years ago.
Dean lived down the street from me and I would show him some of my discoveries in lost glass decorating techniques.
He suggested that I come to his house in a couple of days, as there was this person named Rick that was also interested in glass signs. That was the beginning of a treasured friendship.
Dean was injured at an early age racing speedway bikes at Ascot in the early 60's. He had fallen and was struck by two other bikes. Unfortunately two track officials took hold of him to drag him from the field. Dean told me at that moment he felt his legs go. That must have caused the damage to his spinal cord, resulting in the wheelchair.
Dean never let that trump card slow him down. Instead he wheeled himself into the sign painting class at Pasadena City College with a motorcycle gas tank in his lap. He located the instructor Bob McDaniels and told him that he intended to learn to pinstripe. Years later at Dean's funeral Bob McDaniels told of his amazingly talented close friend Dean, and all that he had accomplished from that first encounter with that gas tank. Dean's funeral not only filled a large church, but also the steps and the sidewalk. They had to add a PA system. I remember thinking to myself that I would be lucky to fill half a pew! The procession that followed was very long and made up of vintage cars and priceless old motorcycles.
I rode behind those old bikes with their "lost oil systems" battling the oil droplets just to revel in the site of Hendersons, Harelys and Indians.
As we passed a three story construction site, I noticed a solitary roofer stop his work at the site of this vintage procession. As he viewed the length of it in appropriate amazement, he reached up and slowly dragged his hat down from off his head and locate it over his heart, as if to show that whoever this funeral was for, he must have been very special to a lot of friends. I learned that it is hard to wipe away tears from under a helmet.
Dean spent many years working with the Everett & Jennings wheelchair company. They looked to his advice to help them build a better chair for people like Dean who didn't let their physical situation slow them down. The company would give Dean a improved chair and Dean would work it hard to its end, then send it back with its obvious weaknesses.
We chuckled about this.
Sadly Dean lost his life on a misty night on the old Pasadena freeway with its old style hairpin exits originally designed for 1930's cars. There had been an accident earlier that day and the residue of fluids from that wreck, coupled with the mist set the way for fate. Dean either hadn't set his safety belt, or it unfastened on impact, resulting in his ejection from his signature tan and copper Econoline van.
Dean had a good impact on my life. Not only did I feel special when he openly invited me to functions at his house, but also in his advise that I should buy some property, anywhere, just buy some. He actually took the time to ride me around in his van and point out properties that he owned or had owned and what they had done for him. My older years will be far more comfortable in thanks to Dean.
I remember one day receiving a call from Dean to come over to see an old Indian motorcycle that had just returned from a local restorer. I walked up his drive expecting to see the bike but only found Dean. "Where's this bike" I asked. Dean's reply was that it was in his living room. Sure enough I entered the house and there it stood. The old red Indian, complete with its original streamlined fiberglass body. It was in reality the original Indian motorcycle that the recent movie "The World's Fastest Indian" evolved around.
I think of Dean and Rick in the same light. Those people, that add momentum to your life and do it graciously and freely.
Once Dean confessed to me one of his weaknesses. He liked to have a drink now and then, or as I remember him colorfully saying "a little hair o' the dog".