Friday, January 22, 2010

Elmhurst Traveler & AFA Hall of Famer Class of 2009

David Paul Hernandey Sr., 1936–2010: Worked his way up from dockhand to owner of trucking company

Touted benefits of playing Native American flute

By Joan Giangrasse Kates, Special to the Tribune

January 21, 2010
Throughout his seven-year battle with lung cancer, and especially while undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments, David Paul Hernandey found comfort and strength playing his Native American flute.
The instrument — carved from wood with six finger holes — was made by and given to him by a close friend of Navajo ancestry.
"In his last days, even when he was so weak and on oxygen, he'd pick up his flute and play," said his wife, Peg. "It made him feel stronger."
Hoping to share with others the physical, emotional and spiritual benefits he gained by playing the flute, Mr. Hernandey founded the Wellness Center Native American Flute Circle, and later, the Living Water Flute Circle.
"Even as he fought through his cancer, he was thinking of how to make a difference," his wife said. "It was part of his hope in making this world just a little bit better."
Mr. Hernandey, 74, of Downers Grove, the retired owner of a trucking business and a former semi-pro football player, died Wednesday, Jan. 13, in his Downers Grove home.
"Through his flute, Dave would express himself," his wife said. "He played it everyday, even the day he died."
Mr. Hernandey founded the Wellness Center Native American Flute Circle in 2004, originally as an informal gathering of Native American flutists at the Wellness House in Hinsdale, a care facility that provides resources and services for cancer patients. A few years later, he and his wife founded the Living Water Flute Circle out of the couple's home.
"Because of Dave, so many people have discovered what an extraordinary instrument the Native American flute is," said Jeanne Halama, who three years ago joined the 15-member Living Water Flute Circle. "It's so expressive. It has sounds that are amazing."
In 1964, Mr. Hernandey began working as a dockhand at North Shore & Central Illinois Freight Co., a trucking company in southwest suburban McCook. He rose through the ranks, eventually becoming owner of the company. He retired in 2001.
Mr. Hernandey learned to play the Native American flute in 2002 after attending a Native American cultural event in Chicago with his wife.
"The first time he played it was a release for him," she said. "He described it as 'totally freeing.'"
Other survivors include two sons, David and Michael; two daughters, Michelle Gagnard and Lana Zenner; a sister, Bea Giordano; a stepson, Eric Fuller; and eight grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday in Kathryn Legge Memorial Lodge, 5901 S. County Line Road, Hinsdale.

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