Doug Henning knows how to make a lasting impression.

When the 43-year-old Eliot man headed to Boston’s Logan Airport just before Thanksgiving to meet his biological father for the first time, he couldn’t resist reenacting a scene from “Elf.”

Dressed as Buddy the Elf, the character played by actor Will Farrell, Henning held a cardboard sign as he jumped around and gleefully sang a song from the 2003 movie.

The video of the meeting between Henning and his father, Raul, was filmed by Henning’s 11-year-old daughter and has been shared widely since the family posted it on Facebook. Stories have popped up on television and in newspapers, something Henning never expected.

Henning is pleased people have been touched by his goofy ice-breaker and the heartwarming reunion.

“I’m glad I could bring some joy to people, especially with what everyone has been going through this past year,” he said. “I hope people find it endearing.”

The meeting between Henning and his biological father came eight months after Henning first connected with members of his extended family. Raised in Alaska, Henning always knew he was adopted and said he had a great life. But as his two daughters got older, he wondered more about his own background and did a DNA test with Ancestry.com.

“I wanted to figure out where a part of me came from,” he said. “I honestly didn’t think I’d find anything because I had no information about my parents at all. I certainly didn’t think I’d get a hit for my dad’s family. The adoption paperwork from 1976 didn’t include any information about my dad’s side.”

Doug Henning and his father spent Thanksgiving together, having never met before. Photo courtesy of Doug Henning

Henning, a cinematographer who works on “The Bachelor,” “The Bachelorette” and “The Amazing Race,” had been working in Los Angeles until production shut down because of the pandemic, but received an Ancestry.com message from a cousin shortly after he returned home to Maine in March.

That connection allowed Henning to find his two younger sisters and his father, who had not known of his son’s existence. After months of phone calls and Zoom visits, Henning’s father and sisters flew from Florida and New Orleans to spend Thanksgiving in Maine. The entire family tested negative for the coronavirus before their long-awaited reunion, Henning said.

The idea of dressing as Buddy the Elf popped into Henning’s head one day as he was driving around with his wife shortly before they were scheduled to drive to Boston.

“I’m kind of a jokester,” he said. “The story is exactly the same. It’s the perfect season to do it.”

The reference to the Christmas movie about a man raised at the North Pole who meets his dad for the first time was lost on Henning’s father, Raul, but his sisters got the joke.

“He had never seen the movie so he just thought I was a weirdo. (My sisters) thought it was brilliant,” he said.

After watching his son dance a jig and sing a song, Raul, who asked that his name not be used publicly to protect his privacy, wrapped Henning in a hug.

“Oh my son, my boy,” Raul said. “Mijo, 44 years too long.”

Henning said his father, who works in the same field as his son, was thrilled to become a father and grandfather on the same day. The family had hoped to spent Christmas together this year, but has decided to hold off for a future visit because of the rising number of coronavirus cases.


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