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Robert Jeffrey Hennes

August 16, 1963 - April 25, 2024

Robert Hennes, musician, faithful friend, son, brother and man of quiet courage died April 25th 2024 at the age of 60.

Robert was quiet, charming, funny and talented, and he never drew attention to himself.  You might not have noticed him if you had passed him on the street. Perhaps it was his origin story that made modesty a matter of habit: Robert was born a girl.

He came out as transgender (F to M) in 1994, long before such matters gained the degree of public acknowledgment and acceptance we are starting to see today.  As an example, his employer at the time fired Robert when he told them of his transition.  Absent the kind of support networks that exist now, it is no small matter that Robert achieved such clarity and self-determination largely on his own, via an inner journey that encompassed the first 30 years of his life.

Robert’s unique passion found an early expression through music.  During middle school he fell in love with 1950s-style rockabilly.  He bought a used drum kit and began to practice every day.  He cut his hair in a stylish pompadour, drove a ‘57 Chevy Bel Air and, in time, found his way into a “garage band” called The Hurricanes.  The band had a successful four-year run playing in clubs around Seattle, and was featured in a two-page write-up in The Rocket, Seattle’s leading alternative music periodical at the time.

At fifty years of age, following a long hiatus from making music, Robert began to study orchestral percussion.  At first self-taught, then working with two different teachers he grew steadily in skill and versatility, eventually settling upon timpani (kettledrums) as his preferred instrument.  Rising through the ranks of two different non-professional orchestras, he earned the position of principle timpanist with the Lake Union Civic Orchestra (LUCO), one of Western Washington’s finest such ensembles.

In the workplace Robert found a niche that suited him—as a cataloger and purchaser at the Microsoft corporate library—and stuck with it.  His employer there, Echo Services, a vendor with Microsoft, marked Robert’s twentieth anniversary last June.

Diligent, sensitive and wryly humorous, Robert was slow to make friends, but those he made were often for life.  An aficionado of tabletop strategy and role-playing games, he joined a small gaming group in the early 1990s.  Several members of that group were still close and still gaming together right up to end of Robert’s days.  He maintained strong ties to family and was especially close to his late mother, Judith, for whom he served as primary caregiver during her long years of chronic illness.

When the diagnosis came last December of a fast-growing lymphoma, Robert fought for life as hard as anyone could, and he did so without anger, self-pity or drama.  Then, when his body was unable to continue with treatment, he made the brave decision to stop fighting and to go home to die with dignity.

In the end Robert died as he had lived—on his own terms.

Robert was predeceased by his mother Judith M Hennes and father John P Hennes, both of Seattle.  He is survived by his brother Scott of Silver City, NM, by their step-mother Margaret Lahde of Seattle, and by numerous cousins and their even more numerous offspring.

Celebration of Life will be held Sunday, June 2 2024, 12:00 noon at the Washington Arboretum Visitors’ Center, 2300 Arboretum Drive E, Seattle 98112, just inside the Arboretum’s north entrance. Parking available nearby.  Accessible (ADA) parking available on request.

In lieu of flowers, please consider donating remembrances to either the Lake Union Civic Orchestra or End of Life Washington.


I was so sorry to learn about Robert's passing. I play violin, but I got to know him because he was a regular member of LUCO's "Beer Board" that gathers each Thursday after rehearsal. I knew him to be a funny, thoughtful person. I will really miss seeing him each week.

Kate Neville

Thank you to whoever wrote this beautiful tribute to Robert. I met him at a Mahler Fest years ago, and watched him grow in musical skill when I joined LUCO. During the pandemic he was a regular participant in a Zoom meeting on Thursday nights, instead of rehearsals, which has continued less regularly since things started up again. He was very encouraging for me to be part of the LUCO percussion section and I will not soon forget him.

Ginny Bear

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