Who knew? Santa’s elves wear Spandex.
And actually, they’re mermaids. Or is it merelves?
Every morning at, oh my lord, 5 a.m., Sheila Brune and a gaggle of gal pals who’ve dubbed themselves the Early Mermaids arrive at the Sterling Park District’s Duis Center pool to get in some water aerobics, a little water walking, maybe swim a few laps.
They have to hurry, though, if they want to beat Glenn Hendryx’s time.
The affable Rock Falls octogenarian with a ready smile and close-cropped hair, who smells, mysteriously and delightfully, a little like licorice (I didn’t ask) has been the first guy in the door every morning since 2011, when he took up swimming laps to strengthen a broken hip.
It’s the exercise, he maintains, that’s allowed him to remain upright on the planet for lo these 81 years.
The women, all a little past the age of water nymphs but still younger than Glenn, have developed a fondness for him – and have taken him under their water wings, so to speak.
It’s easy to see why: The 1955 Rock Falls High grad is a chatty, charming, good-natured guy with an even-keeled disposition and a hellacious love of the Lord.
That little school of mermaids also have seen Glenn in his swim skivvies, though, and decided he needs a little more meat on them bones.
Friday morning, with typical Midwestern hospitality/practicality, the women hauled bags, boxes and coolers full of frozen meals, cookies and other comestibles to Duis, a Christmas surprise for Glenn to use to stock his fridge and freezer.
Surprised he was, and pleased, and touched.
“Why these girls did all this is beyond me,” he said.
Sheila knows why:
Glenn “is truly inspirational in that he never misses, swims laps and then goes upstairs and works out on the machines,” she said.
“We found out that he does not cook very well for himself, and we wanted to do something for him for Christmas. So we all agreed that we would make meals for him, freeze them and give him a cooler full of food all ready to go.”
Glenn (two n’s, like a good Scot, he says) is the last of his five siblings, and he lost Dorothy, his wife of nearly 4 decades, in 2010. He’s the first to admit he’s a typical man: He really doesn’t like to cook just for himself.
He needs the energy, though. In addition to swimming, he has a lot to keep up with: three chihuahuas – Bridget and her boys, Obama and McCain – his “lady friend,” Betty, and the dozens and dozens of nursing home residents he’s befriended, and visits daily.
That’s how the retired Northwestern Steel and Wire Mill worker occupies his days now, in service to others.
As a member of the worldwide Christian service organization Gideons International, in fact, Glenn made it his mission to make sure one of its famous Bibles was in every room of the new Holiday Inn Express along Rock Falls’ riverfront.
Like most things in his life – even the broken hip that brought him to his Duis family – Glenn sees his mermaids – among them Brune, Linda Beckman, Jackie Moore, Lori Petitgoue, and Bonnie Brotheridge – as his angels sent from heaven, a continuation of a life of good fortune.
“That’s just the way my life’s been. The Lord’s been good to me,” Glenn said.
“He’s a good God, ain’t’ he? He sure is.”