MICHAELA GIBSON MORRIS: Hank Boerner showed us all how to live well

By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

The first time I met Hank Boerner, I probably wondered if he had too much coffee.
Relentlessly positive and impossibly energetic, Hank quickly became a go-to source for any information I needed on fitness and healthy lifestyles when I became the health reporter for the Daily Journal in the summer of 2000.
He also became a friend. Every time we’d get together, we’d trade stories about our kids. He was so proud of Hunter and Hal.
On Thursday, we lost Hank to severe septic shock. Today we’ll celebrate his wonderful life and passion for his community and mourn that he won’t be here to lead us in exercise class or make us laugh with a crazy costume to promote a good cause.
Hank really embodied the North Mississippi Health Services’ mission of improving the health of the people in the region.
For Hank, a healthy lifestyle wasn’t about deprivation and duty. Living a healthy life meant you got to have more fun.
At HealthWorks! – where Hank’s wonderful wife Helen inspires children – wacky and happy come together to make whappy.
It’s kind of a shorthand for the high-energy fun that is the hallmark of the children’s health education center. Hank was whappy before we knew what whappy was.
He was always the first one up to dance and exercise with kids at a school program.
There wasn’t a bashful bone in his body, and he wasn’t afraid of a costume or looking silly.
He and Wellness Center colleague Ken Rodgers made a particularly funny Sonny and Cher for a Festival of Hope lip- synch contest.
Hank had such a gift for connecting with people across the community. He didn’t sit on the sidelines waiting for someone else to solve the problem.
When the Tupelo Skate Park was in its final phases of construction, one of the young adults involved with the project spoke about Hank’s contributions with awe. It wouldn’t have happened without Hank, he said.
Hank, for all his passion about healthy lifestyles, was also very gentle and non-judgmental about the less than perfect fitness efforts of his fellow humans.
Over the course of 16 years in Tupelo, I made several attempts to exercise and lose weight. I’d start well, and then falter. Hank never criticized and always was ready to welcome me back on board.
But I have faith that Hank remains with us in spirit. I know he’s cheering for us from on high.
Let’s aim to make him proud.
Michaela Gibson Morris is a Daily Journal staff writer. Contact her at michaelamorris@journalinc.com. or (662) 678-1599.