Longtime Bishop resident Kathryn Henderson passed away last week just after her 80th birthday, leaving behind the lifetime legacies of a loving family and a strong commitment to community and public service.
Henderson died on Oct. 13, 2013 at Renown Medical Center in Reno surrounded by family, according to daughter-in-law Cindy Henderson. In her obituary, son Don Henderson wrote, “She was a born-again Christian who loved her family and savior, Jesus Christ.”
Henderson also loved public service, said daughter-in-law Cindy Henderson, wife of son Hugh Henderson. That was evident from her Mojave County High School days through to her service to the city and community of Bishop, where she spent the last 36 years of her life.
According to the city biography on Henderson, she served on the City Council from 1995-2007. During that time, she served as mayor from 1999-2001 and from 2005-07, and was mayor pro tem from 2003-04. Henderson had been on the Inyo County Grand Jury in past years, as well.
Henderson was an avid collaborator, serving on or otherwise affiliated with the Salvation Army Community Advisory Committee; Eastern Sierra Foundation for the Cerro Coso Community College; Inyo Country Collaborative Planning Committee, Inyo-Mono Association for Community Action; Remote Access Network; Eastern Sierra Council of Government; Inyo Council for the Arts; Inyo County Local Transportation Commission; Collaborative Planning Committee; Local Agency Formation Commission; Indian Gaming Local Community Benefit Committee; and City/County Liaison Committee.
The city biography goes on to state that, during her service to the city, Henderson initiated a citizens committee to explore opportunities for a Community Center and a committee to study economic development, workforce housing and traffic circulation-related topics. She also developed an affordable housing project. “Kathy worked as an advocate for development of business in the area (and) served as a liaison between the public sector needs and needs of the business community.”
Assistant Finance Director Cheryl Solesbee said, “Knowing Kathy Henderson was a joy. Her infectious smile and sparkling eyes always made your day. She came prepared and knowledgeable about the items on the agenda and issues before the City Council. Even after leaving Council she and Elvie would come into the office to visit and often inquire about current issues. On a personal note, I enjoyed her storytelling of her younger days growing up in Arizona. She will be missed but always remembered by those she touched, and there were many.”
Rick Pucci, the Inyo County District 3 supervisor, knew Councilmember Henderson during his tenure as city administrator from 1980-2010. “Personally Kathy and my family have been friends for 15 years or more. She is one of the finest people I’ve ever had the privilege to work with, one of the finest legislators. She was extremely dedicated to bettering the City of Bishop.”
Henderson was born on Sept. 27, 1933 in Kingman, Ariz. to Leslie and Amy Roe and was raised in small, northern Arizona mining towns with older brother Chuck, younger sister Ruby and younger brother John.
Cindy said that Henderson told countless, fondly-remembered stories about her childhood, recalling one that highlighted Henderson’s vivid imagination. Alone at home one day, young Kathy and Ruby heard helicopters and sirens. Kathy just knew the police were on the look-out for robbers, and ever the leader, Kathy turned out all the lights and the girls hit the floor, keeping well out of sight. When it occurred to Kathy that the robbers might break into a dark house, she turned the lights back on. Off and on went the lights at the changing whim of young Kathy’s dramatic imaginings. As it turned out, officials were responding to a fire down the road.
Kathy Roe graduated from Mojave County High School in 1950 – “she was the class darling,” Don said. She met husband Elvie Henderson in their senior year and soon became his darling, too.
Although Elvie “had a crush on Kathy from the get-go,” Cindy said, a seven-year courtship ensued. “It wasn’t whirlwind,” Elvie said. “It stretched over many, many letters and phone calls” while Henderson pursued her degree at Arizona State University and Elvie did the same at Cal Poly. In 1954, Henderson began teaching fifth grade in Arizona. She married “soulmate” Elvie on June 9, 1956 in Phoenix. After relocating to Southern California, where Elvie was employed in the aerospace industry, the couple decided to start a family. Henderson gave up teaching and in 1958 son Don was born, followed by Hugh in 1958 and about 10 years later daughter Pamela arrived.
Wanting to raise their family in a small town and to be closer to family, the Hendersons moved to Elvie’s childhood hometown, Bishop, in 1971, when they also bought Coach and Camper Service, which they ran together for 30 years. The Hendersons’ “faith grew and strengthened,” Don said, and they joined the United Methodist Church, then Church on the Mountain in Crowley Lake and, recently, Bishop Creek Community Church. Fellowship afforded the Hendersons “many close and lasting friendships. Their testament to the congregation was their growing faith and the example they set of a loving and supportive marriage.”
Aside from being a wife, mother, business-owner congregation member and public servant, during her lifetime, Henderson had also been a member and/or leader of organizations such as the Bishop Union High School Booster Club, Bishop Chamber of Commerce, Women’s Republican Group, the Church on the Mountain ladies’ bible study group, Eastern Star and ASU sorority Gamma Phi Delta.
Still, family was extremely important to Henderson and family gatherings, such as big holiday meals, might include folks who had no family close by, Cindy said. Henderson was “loving, warm and welcoming, a great example of what a mother should be.”
Kathy and Elvie “loved the beauty, the creation around here and liked to drive around to see the fall colors,” Cindy said, and she loved to cheer on her grandchildren and great-grandchildren at their sporting events.
“With a warm smile and welcoming heart, no one was a stranger to Kathy,” Don said. Cindy added, “I’ll never forget her big smile. She would laugh and not a sound came out but tears would trickle down her cheeks.
“She wasn’t confined to one little box; she lived outside of the box.” And lived large.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 20 at the Bishop Fairgrounds, Tallman Pavilion with Bishop Creek Community Church Pastor Kelly Larson officiating. A graveside internment will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 22 at the East Line Street Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Kathy Henderson’s name to Laws Railroad Museum, P.O. Box 363, Bishop, CA 93515.