Thornton Alonzo ‘Lonnie’ Heninger of Redding passed away on Feb. 22, 2021 at the age of 91. His wife of 38 years Joan ‘Joanie’ Elinor Vavricka Heninger also of Redding preceded him in death two days prior on Feb. 19, 2021, at age 81.
Lonnie was born Feb. 11, 1930, to Neil Heninger of Redding and Orlena Barnhill of Red Bluff. Lonnie’s mother left the family early in his life. During the Great Depression, Neil packed his son into the rugged wilds of northern Trinity County to prospect for gold. Lonnie’s earliest memories were of being placed on the head-end of a hydraulic monitor at age 6 to help guide the nozzle as it washed away earth while his father and uncles would sluice and pan the gravels to expose gold-bearing minerals.
Lonnie’s dad Neil, along with Neil’s brothers, would later construct and operate a water-powered sawmill several miles up Coffee Creek known as the Heninger Bros sawmill. This mill became a successful endeavor, providing much-needed lumber during the war effort of World War II. Lonnie worked for his dad and uncles for several years at the mill, as well as at the Rodger’s sawmill in old Trinity Center.
Lonnie attended grade school in a one-room schoolhouse at Trinity Center. As he grew older, he would attend Shasta High School while the family ‘wintered’ in Old Shasta to avoid being snowed-in at Coffee Creek. He also attended Shasta College, studying electrical theory.
Lonnie served in the U.S. Army during the Korean conflict in the early 1950s. Afterward, he obtained his pilot’s license and would fly in and out of the old Trinity Center airport.
Lonnie moved to Redding later. He did a stint for a time, driving a taxicab in town. He would chuckle as he told the story about when he would pick up prostitutes occasionally along Redding’s old red-light district, stating that these ‘ladies of the evening’ were his best tippers.
He eventually met and married Elsie ‘Holly’ Ross in 1956. They had four children: Kenneth of Redding, Kevin of Shasta Lake City, Kimberlee Pruitt (husband Doug) of Cottonwood, and Kristi Peterson of Anderson. Lonnie was known as ‘Dadder’ to both his daughters.
At the time of his marriage to Holly, Lonnie was employed at Taylor Motors in Redding as a service manager in the automotive body repair department.
Lonnie remarried in 1983, marrying Joanie Scribner of Red Bluff. Joanie was employed as a waitress at Sambo’s Restaurant, working at both the Red Bluff and Redding locations. Joanie was born on March 27, 1939, to Ralph Vavricka and Naoma Brewer. Joanie was raised in Los Molinos by her grandfather Pleasant Brewer.
Joanie would reminisce about spending time at the old skating rink north of town as well as the swimming hole at Mill Creek. Joanie attended Lassen View grade school. She also attended Red Bluff High School, graduating with the class of ’57. Joanie’s ancestors had once resided in the Dibble Adobe and operated the ferry across the Sacramento River. This area would become known later as William Ide Adobe State Park north of Red Bluff.
Joanie had three children from a prior marriage: Donna Humphey of Redding, Debbie Scribner (deceased) and Vaughn Scribner (wife Amy) of Redding.
Joanie and Lonnie became fulltime managers for Motel 6. They oversaw daily operations at the Motel 6 facility in Palo Alto, Calif., and later at both Redding properties. Corporate recognized their high level of professional service by sending them to Paris, France, twice. The couple also met radio personality and Motel 6 spokesman Tom Bodett while attending a corporate conference in Austin, Texas.
During their leisure time, Lonnie and Joanie would camp up at Buckhorn Lake, north of Whitmore. They also took trips to the coast. They also belonged to the local CB radio club, their call handles: Shasta Tiger/Tiger Doll. Lonnie was also a photographer, taking many photos of local interest. Several of his images have been donated to both the Shasta Historical Society in Redding and the Trinity County Historical Society in Weaverville. One of his best images was a vintage color photograph he took late one night along a nearly deserted Market Street in the 1950s with Redding’s annual Christmas tree all lit up in the background. Joanie loved to collect miniature lighthouses. Lonnie did occasional assay work along Coffee Creek in Trinity County for various claim holders.
Late in his life, Lonnie worked for Orchard Nutrition Center in Redding, up to his 80th birthday. He could also be found out at the Sunday swap meet on Figtree Lane or next to an intersection somewhere in town peddling vacuum cleaners which he enjoyed refurbishing in his spare time.
Lonnie and Joanie are survived by six children, many grandchildren and several great-grandchildren. They are preceded in death by a daughter.
A joint service was held on April 1 at the Northern California Veterans Cemetery located in Igo, Calif. Both are interred there.