Monday, June 16th, 2008
By Margie Wuebker
Rockford truck driver dies
A 62-year-old Rockford man died Saturday morning after losing control of his semi along U.S. 33, west of Harner Road.
Steven D. Henkle, 708 W. Bridge St., was pronounced dead at Van Wert County Hospital, where he was taken from the accident scene by a Rockford unit of the Mercer County Emergency Medical Services.
Henkle, owner and operator of Henkle Trucking LLC, was traveling eastbound at 11:04 a.m. when the 1996 Mack tractor left the south side of the road for an unknown reason. It then came back onto the roadway sliding sideways off the north side of the pavement and rolling down an embankment. The tractor came to rest on its side, according to Mercer County Sheriff's Office reports.
Sheriff Jeff Grey told The Daily Standard his office is awaiting a ruling from the Van Wert County coroner's office regarding the possibility a health-related problem, such as a heart attack or stroke, may have led to the crash. That ruling will determine whether his death is the county's sixth traffic fatality of the year.
"My husband has been driving truck for 35-plus years and he was always so careful," Kathy Henkle said this morning. "Fortunately, there was no oncoming traffic at the time or someone else might have been hurt."
When it came to choosing a career, the lifelong Rockford resident faced two options in earlier times - becoming an Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper or a truck driver. At 5 feet, 6 inches, he did not meet the patrol's height requirements so he turned to driving big rigs.
Described as a "people person," he made contacts across the U.S. as his assignments took him to the Mexican border, North and South Carolina and points north, south, east and west, his wife said.
Henkle had taken his truck to a Monroe, Ind., garage early Saturday morning to have a tire fixed. He had been scheduled for a short run at 6 or 6:30 a.m. today to a scrap metal business in Cridersville.
"My husband was very conscientious when it came to keeping his truck maintained," Kathy Henkle said. "And he never took chances; it was always safety first and foremost."
Other than spending time with family, his passion in life was the restoration of a 1969 Pontiac Catalina convertible. Kathy Henkle said her husband "put his heart and soul" into the car.
"We spent a lot of weekends going to classic car shows," she said. "He loved to show off his car and he loved to look at all the other cars."
Grandson Bradin Douglas Henkle, who turns 5 today, frequently accompanied them on the outings. His black carseat matched the gold car's black interior and the youngster was proud as a king riding in grandpa's "vertible."
The car will play a role in the Wednesday morning funeral, with the pallbearers riding in the vehicle to and from Rockford United Methodist Church.
Kathy Henkle recalls in the last month or so they did things they had not done in a long time. She accompanied him on a recent truck trip and recalls they had a wonderful time.
"I look back now and realize now why we did all those things one more time," she said in a voice laced with emotion. "I would like to ask 'Why him?' but Steve firmly believed when his time was up, it was time to go."
She describes him as a loving husband, a wonderful father, a good man and a people person who could talk to anyone with ease.
"He loved driving truck," she said. "And he died doing what he loved."
In addition to his wife, Henkle is survived by his parents, two sons, two daughters, a brother, two sisters, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
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