William Gerald Henderson, a resident of Oklahoma City, looks back fondly on “grandmotherly charity.”
Henderson, 72, remembers his grandmother, Florence E. Patterson, would have him go to the home of a woman he knew only as Mrs. Lowe. The woman was older and lived alone in their hometown of Lawton.
“I was somewhere between 10 to 15 years old and Mama Florence would have me go over to Mrs. Lowe’s and read her mail to her, mow her lawn or go to the grocery as needed,” Henderson said. “It was all without pay. We had better never ask for money. On holidays, Mama Florence would send plates of food to Mrs. Lowe.”
Move ahead to last September.
Gerald and wife, Joyce, attend and since the 1960s have been active at St. John Christian Methodist Episcopal Church of Spencer. Since 1967, Gerald has been the treasurer and has served as a steward and trustee. For about the past 10 years, he has sung in the choir, helped as a class leader and been the vice-director of the board of Christian education.
As further evidence of his character, Henderson was appointed by his bishop to be president of the statewide Ministry to Men department of the Christian Methodist Episcopal church, where he strives to recruit, to reclaim and to retain men in the church.
And then in September, their church joined the Mobile Meals program in the Spencer area. Once again, Henderson finds himself taking meals to primarily seniors.
“I volunteered to deliver meals and I have found it to be a blessed ministry for many people,” he said, “including those of us who work in it.
“It not only provides nutrition to the recipients, but it provides us a chance to visit with them for a little while. We deliver meals every Friday unless the weather is prohibitive. My partner and I take the garbage out for one of our ‘clients.’ It is a truly rewarding experience.”
Henderson said his grandmother, as well as his mother, Gladys F. Finch, were examples of individuals of “high morals and character” who motivated him to display those qualities as well.
Another example of family service to others came when Henderson’s maternal grandparents, William R. Patterson and Florence, took in a black military veteran from the Spanish-American War. The man was homeless and looking for work for food.
“He stopped at our house because our house was located on the corner across from the then-USO,” Henderson said. “They took him in, let him live in a small room behind the garage and let him tend a garden he cultivated for his keep. Sgt. Taylor stayed with us until his death and the family buried him in the city cemetery.
“We learned a lot from Sgt. Taylor about the military and about life.”
Through the years
After graduating from Douglass High School in Lawton, Henderson earned a bachelor’s in biology at Langston University and a master’s in zoology at the University of Oklahoma.
Henderson went to work at Douglass High School in Oklahoma City and in 1971 was hired by the Federal Aviation Administration, where he retired in 2006. He spent his FAA career at the aeronautical center in Oklahoma City.
Gerald and Joyce were married in 1967 and have two children, Kevin G. Henderson and William Kelly Henderson, and five grandchildren.
To earn extra money, Gerald Henderson began doing income tax preparation in the early 1980s and continues.
He also works part time with OU Medical School in its Standardized Patients program. In this, Gerald and Joyce role-play patients of differing scenarios. This program is to help medical students studying to become doctors, Henderson said.
“This July will mark our 47th wedding anniversary,” Joyce said. “Along with our love of family and church, our passion of giving back has always been a thread in our relationship. ‘To whom much is given, much is required,’ and we have been blessed to give, give and give more of our talents and skills.”
Why he volunteers
In addition to work are all the things Henderson does and has done as a volunteer. He served with the Urban League of Oklahoma City, and for a period of years he served with the March of Dimes.
“I volunteer because I was taught that one should help others as needed,” he said. “I’ve heard often that service is the price we pay for occupying space on this earth. The Bible tells me that to be a good Christian is to be a good servant. ‘If you’ve helped the least of these, you’ve helped me…’
“I volunteer because there is always work to be done and people to help.”