David Hendricks

David Hendricks, dining Wednesday at Lucca Grill in downtown Bloomington.

Book hype: He was only 29 in November 1983 when his name became a household name across mid-America, a man found guilty of killing his wife and three children with an ax in their east-side Bloomington home, sentenced to life in prison and then seven years later, after a second trial, acquitted and set free.

Now David Hendricks is 58.

He lives in south Orlando, Fla., in the shadow of Disney World.

He’s married, with a wife, Gazel, of 10 years and two dogs.

He invented spinal braces that made him a millionaire when he lived in Bloomington, and in 2009 he sold his most recent back-brace innovation company for "an amount of money you would not believe."

Now, Hendricks has added “writer” to his resumé, working on a book, “Tom Henry,” about Henry Hillenbrand, who Hendricks met at Menard Correctional Center while both were imprisoned there. Hillenbrand, now 64, is the man who in Streator in 1970 shot to death a girlfriend and a man with whom he found her, then escaped LaSalle County Jail and spent the next 13 years as a fugitive.

Time is said to heal all wounds, memories fade and communities fully change faces as time inches on, and 29 years after his was one of the most recognized faces in Illinois, Hendricks was back in town this week, staying at The Chateau, doing a media tour of sorts, fully unrecognized by his age and also the ages.

“No one has appeared to recognize the name,” he said with a smile.

On Wednesday, he was lunching at Lucca Grill, among the masses.

Was it good to be back “home”?

“It’s always a mixture of feelings,” said Hendricks. “I get nostalgic when I go through town and the cemetery (Evergreen, where his family is buried), and see some of the old places in this town.”

“On the other hand,” he adds, “I’d never move back here because there are a whole lot of people who think badly of me.”

Then you ask what surely would have to be a leading question — “Given your life experiences, David, when are you going to write a book on your own life and not just Hillenbrand?”

Always one to wince at that, he says he’s now mulling that as his next writing project … but “picking up where (Steve) Vogel’s book (`Reasonable Doubt,’ a bestseller back in the 1990s) leaves off.”

In other words, Hendricks is not yet ready to talk about Nov. 7, 1983, the night when his family was murdered. He either fails to realize the potential of his own marketability … or 30 years after the grisly extinction of his family, still is not ready to look back into a mirror and that night.

• What are these?: All summer long, Jim Angel, an Illinois state climatologist, had been keeping an eye on all the intense heat and a severe lack of rain.

So it was the other day when the extracts of Hurricane Isaac arrived in the form of heavy rain.

"I almost forgot where the switch was for the windshield wipers," joked Angel, "I was kind of surprised the wipers hadn't melted to the windshield."

Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there, too: When singer Lyle Lovett was in town a couple weeks ago for a show at BCPA, he was more than amply familiar with the area’s biggest employer.

Engaged to April Kimble, Lovett’s would-be father-in-law is Jerry Kimble.

He’s a successful State Farm agent in San Antonio, Texas.

Lovett also tried to get a high-end hotel room in B-N but stayed in Peoria instead.

Word was, Lovett later joked that folk in Bloomington-Normal on State Farm business had taken all the good rooms that night.

• Something you never think about: When a business, after closing, fails to take down its large outdoor signs and marquees, you ever thought about the fact those not familiar with the town have no idea the business is closed?

We mention this today because of a group of new ISU students who one day last week boarded a B-N transit bus, transferred at a stop and were finally deposited right in front of the big Circuit City sign at Colonial Plaza.

Oh, by the way, kids … it’s also been closed since 2009.

Bill Flick is at flick@pantagraph.com

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