In Memory

Gary Hennigan

End of a long shift



May, 12, 2004

WOODVILLE - The 1,000-plus crowd in the Woodville High School auditorium sat silently Wednesday afternoon listening to a rendition of "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" as funeral services honoring Sheriff Gary Hennigan drew to a close.

It was a fitting song for a man who not only dedicated his life to law enforcement, but to running Tyler County's Little League program.

Family, friends and colleagues, including law enforcement officers from around the state, attended the service. In the crowd sat dozens of Little League players who wore their baseball uniforms.

Joseph "Gary" Hennigan died Monday after a battle with cancer. He was 59.

"Woodville to Unit One," a voice on the police radio in front of the high school said as the auditorium emptied.

"Last call for Unit One."

"Woodville, Unit One is 10-7, 10-42. Sheriff Hennigan has ended his tour of duty," came the reply.

During the service, Dr. Dwayne Freese, the pastor of Woodville's First Baptist Church, said Hennigan had touched a lot of lives.

" ... He loved young people, he loved Tyler County and he gave himself to it in many ways."

Hennigan served as Tyler County's sheriff for 16 years and was a state trooper for 22 years before that.

As sheriff, he is credited with starting a program that assisted people living alone, for raising public awareness of sex offenders living in the county and introducing a program that placed law enforcement officers in schools.

Among his achievements were Tyler County Citizen of the Year in 1977 and Honorary Citizen of the Year in 1991.

The county's Little League park, where Hennigan served as president for more than 30 years and spent much of his time, is named in his honor.

Hennigan is survived by his wife of 36 years, Debbie; three sons, David, Neil and Derrick; and six grandchildren.

At Magnolia Cemetery, the American flag draped over his casket was presented to his wife. The Harris County Sheriff's Department Honor Guard gave a 21-gun salute, which was followed by "Taps" and a flyover.

Chad Prince, 17, a junior at Woodville High School, is part of the school baseball team that is in the playoffs today. Hennigan's son, Neil, coaches the team.

Team members wore their jerseys and jeans to honor the sheriff.

"He's been a real supporter of us," Prince said. "He always had something positive to say."

Today's game would be difficult, Prince said, but "I think we're going to do it for him. I think we're going to pull through. We're going to be strong. We'll be playing for him. It will probably be tough on Coach (Neil) Hennigan, but we're going to pull through for him, too."

Sheila Sharp, a retired deputy sheriff, knew Hennigan from when he, as a state trooper, gave her a driving test.

"You might as well say he's in his field of dreams now," she said.