Cover photo for Henry Elmer Sorenson, Jr.'s Obituary
Henry Elmer Sorenson, Jr. Profile Photo
1946 Henry 2023

Henry Elmer Sorenson, Jr.

July 6, 1946 — February 11, 2023

Professor Henry E. Sorenson, Jr. (called “Hank” by many of his friends), a distinguished educator, visual artist, musician, and adventurer, passed away on February 11, 2023, in Bozeman, Montana, at the age of 76.

Henry was born to Henry E. Sorenson and Barbara L. Sorenson (McMullen) on July 6, 1946 in Tampa, Florida. Henry was the eldest of four children. Born into a military family, Hank and his three brothers spent their childhood stationed on bases across the world, including long stays in Alaska and Japan. It was during this period he first gained a taste for travel, which would become a lifelong passion.

Although Henry had no formal art training before college, he had always enjoyed drawing - which strongly influenced his life direction and choices. This fervor drew him to attend the School of Architecture at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, where he earned his Masters of Architecture degree. Under the tutelage of the late Bob Davis, a gifted and inspirational architectural illustrator, both as his student and working in his office, Henry developed into a skilled illustrator, designer, and teacher in his own right. The act of making visual images, especially through the mediums of drawing, painting, and photography were some of his greatest pleasures throughout his life.

The years living in Gainesville were formative: a time in which he made many of his best lifelong friends and became a Super Fan of Florida Gator football (Go Gators!). While living in Gainesville he met, fell in love with, and married Shaila with whom he shared a love of music,  art, and architecture.

In 1983, Hank accepted a tenure-track position in the School of Architecture at Montana State University, where he was hired to create and coordinate its graphics program. It wasn’t long after moving to Bozeman that Henry and Shaila decided to put down roots - designing and building a house, and starting a family - raising two talented, gifted children, Kyle and Sondra.

Henry was a leader and stalwart member in the Design Communication Association (DCA) and the American Society of Architectural Illustrators (ASAI) from their inceptions. During the many years (39) that Hank coordinated its graphics program at the School of Architecture at M.S.U., the National Architectural Accrediting Board consistently singled out the exceptional graphic skills displayed by M.S.U. students. Their work was also recognized nationally and internationally through (ASAI) student architectural design and graphic competitions.

Henry loved to travel and experience new places in both his personal and professional life. As a professor he led many M.S.U Architecture Foreign Studies classes through Europe, South America, Mexico, Australia, and India; in other professional capacities his foreign travels included Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Hawaii, and England.

At the time of his retirement in 2022, he had become a pillar of the school, widely regarded as a brilliant and beloved professor, inspiring countless students over the years.

Outside the Classroom:

Known variously as Henry, Hank, and Rocky ( depending upon the company) …

Henry was a man who lived at his own pace: you couldn't go anywhere with Henry without him stopping frequently to talk with strangers, or join him on a hike without him stopping every few feet to take a photograph, or pick up something to add to his multitude of collections. His home was filled with a lifetime of collections he “simply” Acould not part with.

As a good friend said, “Rocky (Henry) was able to find beauty and thoughtfulness in everything he saw… and where others saw nothing. His photos of everyday things around him and singing songs that would never end, always kept him alive. He shared so much and always had a ‘story’ to tell. Henry, Hank, and Rocky we will miss you.”  

He enjoyed jamming/playing guitar and singing with his fellow musician friends, getting together to watch football games, and partying on occasion. One of his greatest joys was attending the annual Beach Bash Party in Florida, a gathering he and his best friend, Ron, founded some 47 years ago -  a place where his long-time friends and fellow musicians gathered to celebrate friendship, music, and just having fun (letting their hair down).

Henry was warm, caring, and kindhearted. He had a great smile. He spoke often of how lucky he was to have all of his family in his life. He spoke with his mother at least once a week. He brightened his home with music and singing. People passing by his home in the early evening were often treated to the melodic strains of live, acoustic guitar music emanating from within.

He will be deeply missed by his family, friends, colleagues, and students. He will be remembered as an easygoing conversationalist, a talented artist, a beloved professor, a loving brother, son, father, and husband, and a pretty good guitar player.

Henry was preceded in death by his father Henry E. Sorenson in 1975 and a younger brother Early Mac Sorenson in 2019. Hank is survived by his wife, Shaila Sorenson, his two children, Kyle Sorenson and Sondra Sorenson - of Bozeman MT; his brothers Ole Sorenson and Bradford Sorenson, and his mother, Barbara Sartor - in Florida.

From Henry’s brother, Ole: “If you would like to honor Henry/Hank, I would suggest that you go and play some music somewhere. Smoke a slab of salmon or make a pot of chili or garbanzo bean soup. Drink a Corona or a White Russian. Tell some insipid dad jokes. And give somebody a hug while getting a hug yourself. Say hello to a stranger or pet a dog. All those things would put a smile on his face, and mine as well.”

A Celebration of Henry’s Life will be held - in Bozeman - on the afternoon of April 28, 2023. The place and time will be announced when the arrangements are finalized.

A show of Henry’s illustrations and photos will be on display in the MSU Architecture - Cheever  Hall Gallery during the week of April 23rd - 28th and will conclude with a reception in the gallery on Friday, April 28, 2023, at 5:30 pm.

A Separate Celebration of Henry’s Life will be held - in Florida - on May 20, 2023 at the Annual Beach Bash gathering at Gamble Rogers Memorial State Park.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Henry Elmer Sorenson, Jr., please visit our flower store.


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