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Henry Schaeffer, an early student of Shunryu Suzuki-Roshi and Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, died on May 4th in San Francisco, California where he had lived for the past 30-40 years. According to his close friends, Henry had been in decline for about six months. He had lost significant weight and admitted himself to a Kaiser Permanente Hospital in San Francisco on March 27th. At that time he was found to be severely anemic, but other tests showed no pathology. He went to the hospital for further tests, and asked to lie down for a few minutes before the tests began as he felt fatigued. He then died suddenly.
Henry the Storyteller
As a storyteller, Henry had the ability to convey past events with rich visual detail. Here are two examples.
Thank you to Bill Scheffel for this interview
Henry arrived early for the 1973 Seminary in Jackson Hole to help set things up. We where shampooing the carpet late at night in the cafeteria that was soon to be the shrine room. We heard a loud banging in the entrance area and Henry leaned around the corner to see a huge bear on it's hind legs shaking the candy vending machine. Henry , a city guy, yelled it's a b- ba-bear and and went running out to get a closer look. Lucky for Henry the bear was more afraid of him than getting his candy bar or we might have been saying our good byes to Henry 40 years ago.
Fearless Henry we will miss you.
This past Saturday, June 3, about 40 friends and fellow Sangha gathered at SF Shambhala for a Shing Kam and celebration of Henry's life. A beautiful tapestry of recollections was offered by the members of Henry's virtual family and Sangha colleagues who had been touched by Henry's gentleness, dignity and devotion to the Vidyadhara, and to his devotion to the authenticity of the awakened state of mind. Numerous heartful stories were shared from the 60's, 70's, 80's and 90's.
Henry drove a "motorized cable car", giving tours of San Francisco for 50 years. We are informed the tour operator has placed a bronze plaque on his vehicle in his honor.
Journey on with awakened heart, gentle dignity and good courage, dear friend.
I always would see Henry at Martha's. The coffee shop on Church St., just up the street from my flat. Henry, the soft spoken gentleman that he was, would be sitting there, reading the paper and having his coffee. He would speak softly and I would have to lean over into the table to hear him..He would not waste time on greetings. Leaning in, his soft voice would say "Rinpoche........". It was always something about the Vidyadhara...Right in the middle of Martha's..Henry, the transmission man, the reminder. I miss Henry already. Noticed now, everytime I go past Martha's, I wonder for a second if Henry is there. For me, he will always bring the reminder.
I spent a couple hours today at the Shambhala center on Stevenson st., for Henry's service. It msde me feel very good to hear everyone sharing their experiences with Henry. Unfortunately for me, I had very little time with him. I am glad to know he had wonderful relationships with so many people. Thank you all. Until the next time Uncle Hank.
I spent a couple hours today at the Shambhala center on Stevenson st., for Henry's service. It msde me feel very good to hear everyone sharing their experiences with Henry. Unfortunstely for me, I had very little time with him. I am glad to know he had wonderful relationships with so many people. Thank you all.
I'm going to miss Henry. Like many others, I found him to be a joyful person, funny, and easy to love. When crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, I'd sometimes think of him rolling around San Francisco in that motorized cable car he drove, making tourists happy. When we'd see each other at dharma events we'd sometimes reminisce about Tulku Urgyen who, like CTR, helped us both. . .a common bond of unbelievable luck + debt of kindness we shared. I'll certainly miss his sweet smile, gift of gab, and bright presence.
Henry Schaeffer, Cloud of Dharma
Everytime we met
You reminded me of Rinpoche-
What a jolly good job you did of that
I first met Henry as a part of a trip to examine land for purchase in Colorado (RMDC). Later shared a house with him, anchored by Howie Klein on 9th street in Boulder in the 80's (I think). What a treasure to know, practice and party with Henry for a time. Henry shared many Trungpa Rinpoche and Susuki Roshi stories with us. What a beautiful time, what a beautiful person.
Until soon old friend....
Here is a link to photo made of Henry with VCTR, maybe 1971, in Colorado mountains on a search for land.
After a talk in Los Angeles in March of 1974 I asked Rinpoche if he could come to Santa Barbara to give a talk. "I'd like to very much," he said, "But your will have to ask my secretary, Marvin Casper."
"Rinpoche is booked for two years." Marvin told me. "We will send Henry Schaeffer."
Henry drove down from San Francisco and we planned a weekend workshop. When the day arrived, 40 people showed up. Henry taught meditation and gave talks on the 8 fold path. It was wonderful, but after the program was over, I asked Henry, "Meditation is hard. I don't like it. Do I have to do it in order to be a student of Trungpa Rinpoche?"
"Yes you do." he told me with gentleness, fearlessness, and firmness. He was so kind. Through out my life I have remembered Henry's advice with gratitude.
I'm remembering the time in the early '70's when Henry and I shared a car going from Karma Dzong (called that in those days) in Boulder to San Francisco for a Seminar that Rinpoche was giving at the San Francisco Dharmadatu.
He announced, in a matter-of-fact-way, that we should stop at a store and pick up a bottle of tequila. But the bottle had to have a worm in it.
He was very business like in the entire matter - we went from store to store until we found the bottle with the worm in it. And this seemed to be how Henry approached most things - in-a-matter-of-fact-way. He always seemed to be enjoying himself in his same self assured way. Thanks Henry for being you, unique in your own way.
I was in Boulder with Rinpoche when he received the call that Suzuki Roshi had passed. The first thing he did was ask us to call Henry. When he got Henry on the line he simple said Suzuki Roshi has died. No small talk, no attempt to soften the news. It was a very raw moment for Rinpoche.
Henry was a treasure of stories about Trungpa Rinpoche and a regular presence at the San Francisco center.
As most who knew will say, he always told great stories and insightful questions at dharma talks. Years ago when we were moving the San Francisco center from Taraval Street to its current location, Henry told me stories of all the previous locations for the center with a small anecdote or story for each.
Recently i saw Henry at a Wednesday night dharma talk. As usual, he had a great anecdote about Rinpoche and how it related to the talk given. Afterward he was immediately surrounded by people eager to say hello.
How fortunate we were to have his presence at the center. Henry may your journey be happy and fortunate; and may the Vidyadhara's voice find you wherever you are.
I remember him coming over from Pulahari House in Boulderto talk to us Guru Maharajites next door in a building that later turned into a Naropa building for awhile. I'm not sure if he made any sense but the wild late night parties over there did wake us up! (his party probably isn't over yet!)
Henry was something of an eternal presence for me...until now, of course. I'd go to a breakfast joint in Boulder in the 70s; there was Henry eating eggs and reading the paper. I'd go to Karma Dzong; there was Henry. In 1979, I made my first trip to San Francisco with Howie Kiein and we met up in a cafe with Henry. Every Shambhala Day in San Francisco, you'd find Henry holding forth with one or several of his stories about the old days with Trungpa Rinpoche, often with some salacious or fascinating detail I'd never heard before.
Henry loved to dance. I found him rocking out by himself in clubs in SF during the 90s surrounded by people less than half his age. He said they looked at him with "What are you doing here, Pops?" in their eyes, then threw back his head with one of his almost-too-long gulping laughs. For the last couple of decades, I'd most reliably see Henry at Martha's Cafe here in SF where he went at couple of times a day to read the paper.
Good ole Henry. One of those rare people that was utterly predictable and utterly surprising at the same time. Love to you wherever you are, probably reading the paper.