By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
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For the neighborhood, which tends toward grandeur, the Moormanns' little green house is somewhat small. It's a modest single story on a Tangletown street, quieter still now that Henry is dead and his band of friends doesn't come around anymore.
Inside, Nancy Moormann has decorated it tastefully with antiques and framed sketches of birds and animals. She points out a small, dark painting in a black frame, a landscape executed in acrylics by Henry when he was 9. The painting shows a black barn and silo against a dark sky. A thin, fiery sunset spans the horizon. In the days since Henry was shot and killed, this painting has for Nancy Moormann become emblematic of his life.
"He was so proud of it," she recalls. "We got it framed, and he gave it to his dad for Christmas. He took it to the office and hung it there and was very proud of it." But in 1993, she divorced Henry's father, and he moved out of the state. "When his dad packed up to leave home, he left the picture here. I put it away. I figured Henry didn't need the rejection."
As Nancy Moormann tells it, her husband walked out and never looked back. Not that the family was hardy when intact. "It was terrible," she says. "We argued all the time.... He said, 'If you throw me out I'm not going to have anything to do with you.' I said, 'That's fine with me. I don't count on you for anything anymore.' And that's literally what I got. I didn't get anything from him."
Her ex has lived in Illinois now for years. Henry and his sister Renate recently tried unsuccessfully to reach him, their mother says.
Right after the divorce, Moormann moved her family to Minneapolis from Minnetonka. Henry was 14, a tough time to make that kind of move. But it was his sister Renate who seemed headed for trouble. She was tough-talking and rebellious, and she ran her mother ragged. "She was right in my face," says Moormann. "She was amazing. She would run with the most repulsive characters. She's told me about ducking under cars as bullets were flying. She's known every gang member that's been arrested or killed in Minneapolis. She and Henry were very, very close and I think he thought this was glamorous." Eventually, Moormann says, Renate pulled her act together and joined the Navy, but not until after some very difficult times at home.
While Renate was brash and brazen, Henry was smooth and congenial, a happy-go-lucky friend to his mother. "He was lovely. He and I connected on a level that his sister could not catch on to. His sister didn't get The Far Side--we would laugh like crazy. He could see things in nature and in the clouds that she couldn't see. So we had this bond. It was really nice. He was charming. He was funny. All his friends talk about missing his smile. He was smart. He was very clever. He was artistic. And he was screwed up."
In school, Henry was an occasionally brilliant student, the kind of kid who was easily bored but did well when something caught his interest. "Whenever he had a teacher that spotted that something, he always did well," Nancy says, "otherwise he kind of just screwed around." He was artistic. His room in the basement was filled with the candles he'd made. He kept a journal and wrote poems.
Nancy found one of his last poems, or the first line of one anyway, when she was dismantling his room the weekend after he died. On a sheet of loose-leaf he'd written, "When I was 16 years old, I began to open my eyes." Nancy keeps it in a drawer to remember him by. "It seems pretty sad that he didn't finish opening them," she says.
After the move to Minneapolis things went from bad to worse. Henry, who was already smoking pot, adopted the trappings of a gangbanger. "He was a skinny kid with glasses coming in from the suburbs," Nancy says. "He used to be scared of the Laotian kids, and the Hispanics and the blacks. 'Boy do I feel like a minority,' he would say." He was drawn to the 2-1 crowd because he'd been friends with most of them since kindergarten. They were bonded in a way Henry had never experienced before.
As a teenager in this new environment, his personality seemed split. At home he was still the charming, open, deferential child Nancy knew and loved. But when his friends came around, his manner would change. Nancy had a hard time reconciling the two Henrys. "They'd walk around walking their walk and talking their talk. I'd say, 'Gosh you're unattractive when you do that. You're such a handsome kid. What's this all about? I don't understand this tough front.'"
Worried about his marijuana use, she put him through a treatment program and dragged him into family counseling. "Henry could tell them exactly what they wanted to hear. He came out and everything was fine. He'd be off and running and doing whatever it was he wanted to do anyway."