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‘A really smart guy’: Former RJ photo editor Jerry Henkel dies

Updated June 2, 2023 - 5:19 pm

Former Review-Journal photo editor Jerry Henkel died at 72 last week at his Las Vegas home.

He died on May 24, the day of his 18th wedding anniversary with wife Grace Galik.

The couple met when Galik was driving to a cowboy action shooting competition with a friend when they noticed a man dressed in cowboy attire stuck in the mud on the side of the road. Galik insisted they pull over to help the stranger out, and the rest is history.

She remembered him Wednesday as a sweet and caring man with a gentle soul, and a love for cooking and scuba diving.

“He was very outgoing,” Galik said. “He loved to chat with people. He could find common ground to talk with just about anybody.”

While the couple did not have any children, they were the proud parents of two dogs.

Henkel was always good with animals, and his wife said strange dogs would come up to him to say hello with a friendly lick.

“They knew he was a dog person,” she said.

A mentor and teddy bear

Henkel attended Basic High School, but moved back to his hometown of Los Angeles where he worked for The Associated Press as a photo editor, before his role took him to Washington D.C.

But wanting to be back on the west coast, Henkel took a job at the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 1998 as a wire photo editor. He was promoted to photo editor in 2007.

It was in the Review-Journal offices that freelance photographer Ronda Churchill first met Henkel, and the two would meet for lunches after Henkel’s retirement.

Churchill still has Henkel’s phone number saved in her phone under the contact name “Jear Bear.” The nickname is used by a group of Henkel’s friends because it fit Henkel’s personality as being a “big ol’ teddy bear,” she said.

Review-Journal photographer Kevin Cannon also met Henkel in person for the first time when Cannon was hired by the paper in 1999. However, Cannon knew Henkel for years before ever meeting through submitting his photos to the AP, an aggregate wire service for newspapers. Henkel often helped Cannon with captions and would make other suggestions related to photography.

“I would always call him my mentor, and he just thought that was funny because we never worked together in the same room,” Cannon said.

Henkel and Cannon became friends and spent time outside of work hiking and biking together. Henkel left the paper in 2014, but continued to contribute to the newspaper through freelance photography.

The last time Cannon saw Henkel was at a local camera store’s buy back event. Cannon said the event would turn into a reunion for local photographers. They spent hours together that day.

“He was a hell of a lot of fun and a really smart guy,” Cannon said. “We just had a good time together.”

Henkel’s ashes will be spread in the Spring Mountains, near Mount Charleston.

Contact David Wilson at dwilson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @davidwilson_RJ on Twitter.

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