By Don Sanford
Rozell Henkel, longtime MYC judge, mentor and cheerleader to sailors young and old, passed away on Sunday, March 11. She was 96. "When I joined our club in 1977, Rozell and her husband Ernie had been judging our races for, well... forever.
Everyone knew them. I remember heading out to the race course the first time. It was blasting out of the southwest and we were roaring along on a screaming plane when my skipper, Don Ermer, shouted above all of this, 'Where's Ernie? Do you see Ernie out there?' The only Ernie I knew was on Sesame Street, and I couldn't understand why he'd be out there in these conditions. I soon learned that 'Ernie' was short for Ernie and Rozell, the judges. Sure enough, as we plunged further into the Mendota mayhem, the Double Barrel came into view, tossing wildly at anchor, with flags flying, ready to start our race.
Why the Double Barrel? Ernie's son Jim provides the explanation, "Dad's original judge's boat was a pontoon boat that a friend of mine made by welding 55-gallon drums together. There were two cannons mounted on the bow, so the Double Barrel had a double meaning, always a good thing for a boat's name. When that vessel was no longer seaworthy, the Double Barrel II took her place."
"Rozell was the MYC judge when I started racing an E-Scow on Mendota in 1972," recalls Lon Schoor. "Ernie and Rozell were always together working as a team. They didn't have any fancy equipment to help set a course, but I can attest to the fact that MYC's race courses were as good or better than at any other ILYA lake I ever sailed on."
"Rozell was a peach," Bill Hanson told me in a recent email. "I started racing C boats in 1960 when I was 12 and we tipped over a lot. Over the next few years, Ernie and Rozell were always there to help get us upright. I don't know who gave us the name 'Horizontal Hanson,' but I think it was Rozell. She always called me 'Horizontal.' That's why my boats have been named Horizontal 1 through 9. Rozell was Ernie's right arm on the judge's boat and attended after-race parties to share in everybody's racing day. The only time she wasn't so happy happened on Labor Day, 1967. Back then, 'Last Gun' was won on Labor Day, and I was determined to win it to go with 'First Gun' that I got at the beginning of the season. Steve Suhr and I were the only boats out there at sunset, when Ernie and Rozell motored by on their way in. They told me to call with my time when I got to shore. It was 2:30 a.m. when I called. I couldn't understand why they weren't as excited as I was."
Rozell and Ernie's many years of service as our race committee is unmatched in MYC history. This very special person in our club's history has "crossed the bar." She is on her way to join so many other sailors at the big regatta in the sky, where your course is always square, the sky is a perfect blue, and everyone finishes before dark. She is survived by her six children--Jim, Suzanne, Paul, Bambi, Pamela and Steven--and 12 grandchildren. A celebration of her life will be held at a later date. Her complete obituary is posted at madison.com.