“Even when he was so sick that he lost the ability to talk, he gave 100 percent,’’ added Kirk Wade, WSVN’s chief photographer. “He’d come to work and stand out in the heat.’’
Station management “stayed by him,’’ added reporter Rosh Lowe. “I know Henry would want to say ‘thank you’ for that.’’
On Fridays, no matter where they were, Cardenas made sure to get Lowe, an observant Jew, back to the station in time for him to drive home before sundown.
“He was so respectful,’’ Lowe said.
Lowe wrote on Cardenas’s Facebook page that he was “always amazed about his simple and elegant connection to God,. Every morning he would feed the animals — first the cats, then the ducks. I would wait in the car impatiently. The scanners were blaring. But for Henry, those animals took priority.’’
Cardenas entered a deeper relationship with animals after suffering a heart attack in the 1980s. His wife said he promised God that if he survived, he would always care for helpless creatures.
“He didn’t just put down the food,’’ said Lowe. “He’d crouch down and talk to the animals. It was as if they knew him.’’
Glenna Milberg, a WSVN reporter from 1987 until she left for WPLG-10 in 1999, called Cardenas “a handsome guy, very charismatic, a great soul, sensitive and intuitive...He had twinkly blue eyes and an adorable impishness,’’ all of which came into play on the job.
If it took charm’ to get the story, “he would use it,’’ she said.
His great gift was storytelling “as a reality art form: unscripted, unplanned, no tripod and lights,’’ said Milberg. “Henry went out and told life’s story, and noticed details that escaped someone else.’’
She recalled an “intense, emotional trip’’ to report on Cuban rafters being held in a frightful Bahamian prison.
“It stuck me that Henry was looking at these people in terrible positions and thinking, ‘There but for the grace of God go I.’ ’’
In 1986, while covering the killer earthquake in Mexico City, Cardenas and reporting partner Brian Cabell were so moved by the plight of an 11-year-old boy born without legs that they arranged to get him prosthetics, then produced a 30-minute documentary called “Standing Tall,” showing the boy walking.
In addition to his wife, Cardenas is survived by sons Enrique, of Palm Beach, and Adrian, of Miami.
To honor his commitment to animals, the family suggests memorial donations to the Greater Miami Humane Society Adopt-a-Pet.
Plans for a celebration of his life will be announced at a later date.
Miami Herald writer Maria Camila Bernal contributed to this story.