Freethought Today · September 2016

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

In Memoriam: Wayne Hensler

Wayne A. Hensler enjoyed life while he could because he knew there was no afterlife.

Wayne, 87, died on June 15 at Rainbow Hospice Inpatient Center of Johnson Creek, Wis.

But he left behind what he hoped would be a legacy for his grandchildren and great-grandchildren: freethought billboards. For several years Wayne sponsored FFRF billboards around south-central Wisconsin that said, "Enjoy Life Now: There Is No Afterlife."

Since 2010, he paid to have the billboard message he coined placed once a year somewhere in rural Wisconsin and expressed hope that other FFRF members might be "inspired" to place similar messages in their areas on behalf of FFRF.

Wayne was born on Aug. 4, 1928, in the town of Portland, Wis., the son of Emil and Vera (Dochadis) Hensler. He graduated from the Farm Short Course at the University of Wisconsin. After finishing his education, he purchased and operated his own farm in the town of Lake Mills, Wis., and later bought a hog farm in Waterloo, Wis. On Aug. 22, 1953, he married Bernadine Balmer in Waterloo and the couple raised two daughters. He joined FFRF in 1985 and became a Lifetime Member in 2006.

Wayne prided himself on being a freethinker, traveler, hog farmer and always living life his way. Regarding the billboards he sponsored, Wayne hoped they would bring a bit of cheer to those who saw them.

"It's something that will make people think a little bit, and maybe help them make a little more joy in life," he said. "With all these signs, especially the religious ones — God this and Jesus that — this is kind of counteracting that kind of thing."

Hensler grew up in a religious family. His grandfather, a German immigrant, "got so wound up reading the bible all the time, he actually got to believing he could heal people." His Lutheran mother always wanted him to sit with her in the front pew, but he wouldn't.

Hensler sometimes asked religious friends if they believe in ghosts. "They say, 'Oh no!' Then I ask them why they pray to the father, the son and the holy ghost, and they just look at me," he said.

Wayne thought the key to success in life was good old-fashioned common sense. With a smile, he said he would tease people by asking, "Why should I go to church? I don't want to go to heaven. I don't want to be with you people. Can't you get that in your head?

"We will certainly miss this octogenarian activist," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "There was always a chuckle in his voice when we conspired over the phone on our plans for the next billboard. Wayne definitely made my life more enjoyable and his message is a wonderful legacy."

Wayne is survived by his daughters Judi (Norman) Eggert of Waterloo and Peggy (Fred) Schwartz of Helenville, Wis.; nine grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren, two brothers and three sisters.

Wayne's "unholy" trinity is made up of life, death and "hoping someone remembers you. That's all that life is about. That's my philosophy anyway."

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