published: Sunday, April 14, 2013
Henderson named LP's Most Interesting Person
By CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY
LAKE PLACID -- Eddie Mae Henderson sat with friends enjoying the Lake Placid Chamber of Commerce's 2013 Annual Awards Banquet -- at least until the awards part of the evening arrived.
She was minding her own business, Henderson said, when she heard herself named the first recipient of the Most Interesting Person in Lake Placid Award.
"Oh, they really surprised me on that," Henderson said much later. "I was really embarrassed. People are so good to me, I don't know how to act. All of my life I had no recognition. I thought my life was a failure. Now I'm 74 and it's coming in."
Henderson was born and raised in the small farm town of Greenwood, up near Marianna. At 6 years old she began going to school and working -- spending a half day in the classroom and a half day in the fields.
Over a 40-year farm worker's career, she has picked cotton, broke corn, chopped peanuts, weeded, stacked sod and followed the apple and orange harvests.
Nothing was easy. The work was physically exhausting. It strained the back, coarsened hands and irritated the skin. The pay averaged $30 to $40 a week. Families lived on credit extended by local grocers.
Asked how she managed such a hard life, Henderson said, "You do it so long, it comes naturally and you just get up and do it."
She moved to Lake Placid to be with her mother in 1955, the mother of five herself. It was in Lake Placid she met her second husband, Albert Henderson. He became a father to her children, and agreed to help raise countless foster children and adopt one girl.
"He was sent by God," Henderson tells a visitor, leaning over and stroking her husband's arm.
In Lake Placid she began taking care of white families' children. "I raised them all," she said laughing. "The Griffins, the Duncans, Mat Delaney."
Did that mean she moved out of the fields to work inside homes, she was asked.
"I didn't get out of the fields," she said with a polite snort. "I got out of the house to go into the fields. I had to earn a living." In other words, her days were still divided in half.
In those days, she said, all the farm workers were black and life was segregated. "In a lot of places you couldn't even get a Coca-Cola," Henderson said. "People didn't understand each other. That was the main problem."
Slowly, over years, integration began. "It didn't happen overnight," she said. It took patience, hard work and persistence.
When Albert Henderson suffered a stroke, and then a series of others, Mrs. Henderson retired to take care of him.
It turned out she has special qualities of caring, an empathy born from her own hardships.
"It is harsh, sir," she said. "It sure does get rough. You ought to see me pick up pennies. Anybody need help, I'm there with them." Henderson laughs and rocks back in her seat. "I've never met a stranger. Ever. Uh-uh," she said.
Her home in Highway Park is on a quiet side street. The front door is open. The sun shines in, and a musical wind chime sounds just outside. Just when it seems like an oasis of peace, however, someone comes to the door, or the telephone rings. Henderson is busy all day.
A minister, "I can't leave God out of it," she said, quoting John 15:12. "Love ye each other as I have loved you."
It was Henderson's love that created her annual Christmas dinner more than 30 years ago. She said the first meal had a $100 budget. Last Christmas, she and her volunteers -- "all colors working together" -- served between 700 and 800 dinners.
Her advice to the next generation is the voice of experience. "All you hear from the young people is freedom, freedom, freedom. But nobody gives anything away for free. Even God paid a price when his son Jesus paid a price for us. Nothing is free.
"If you make a bad beginning, make your way through it. Work hard, stay humble and focused. Don't give up if you fail. Try again. Don't give in. We've got so much in this world to be grateful for."
Henderson spreads her gospel of love every Sunday from 7:30-8 a.m. on WWTK radio. "When you hear Sharing and Caring, that's me," she said.
Wow! (by: Blindman~ - 4/14/2013)
From humble beginnings, a life of hard work & caring for others to public recognition is truly a success. What an interesting story. I just love where she says " she was minding her own businesses when she heard herself named first recipient".
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