Helen C. Henderson, age 91 years, formerly of Decatur, Illinois, wife, mother, grandmother, educator, proud Ukrainian, and devout Christian died at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, October 30, 2020 with her husband at her side at their home in Niles, Michigan
Helen Henderson, née Helen Catherine Billick, was born in Chicago, Illinois on January 2, 1929. She was the daughter of immigrants, Rose and Louis Billick, both of whom immigrated from Ukraine as teenagers. Growing up in an eastern European neighborhood of Chicago, Helen did not learn English until she went to kindergarten. She had mixed emotions about being a Ukrainian in America; the stigma of being an “immigrant” was unsettling. But as an adult she enthusiastically embraced her Ukrainian heritage, traveling three times to Ukraine to connect with family and visit her father’s village and home.
Helen married Eugene Henderson after meeting him at Blackburn College, where their courtship began with a spirited exchange of snowballs. Married on July 5, 1947 in Decatur, Illinois, Helen left the city and became a country girl, moving to the Henderson farm. She so enjoyed and appreciated Eugene’s large extended family, the farm animals and outdoor life. Together they ran the Henderson Christmas Tree Farm; a year-round tradition of planting, trimming and then in the winter, welcoming families to hike through their pasture, cross the creek to reach the awaiting pines.
Together for 73 years, Helen and Eugene raised 5 children, and welcomed two exchange students, Nobuko Akiyama (Japan) and Vivian Turk (Brazil) into the family. Even with this busy household, Helen managed to return to school receiving her Master’s degree. She then became an elementary teacher. It was a role that she loved for more than 25 years during which she remained committed to “catching her students being good.” Family dinners often included the entertaining stories of the latest escapades of her students. Even after she retired, she found ways to keep teaching/sharing from becoming a computer teacher to starting a business with her dear friend/sister-in-law, Carolyn Henderson. And in her 80s, she organized a knitting group, and with her knitting friends created 100s of squares to be made into blankets for those in need.
Helen had a loving heart with emotions quick to share. Her sense of adventure took her from camping in the northwoods to sailing in New Zealand. Her love of learning kept her engaged, even into her 90s she was inquisitive – reading and squirreling away new recipes to try in the future. Her tears reflected her deep sense of concern whether it was for the unborn or the destructive way we treat the earth. Her support of and generosity for her family took many shapes, ever constant.
Throughout their years, Helen and Eugene were very active in several churches and valued their church family. Their commitment to their faith was deep, their belief in God strong, and prayers of thanks and support were a fundamental part of their daily lives.
Helen is survived by her husband, Eugene; the families of her five children: Terry (died in Feb. 2002) and wife, Inge; daughter, Diane (Pat) McCullough; son, Scott (Kat) Henderson; son, Brad (Bwendy) Henderson; daughter, Jeanne (Greg) Wright; 11 grandchildren, and 7 great grandchildren, and 1 great-great grandchild.
Family and relatives of Helen Henderson will gather at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, November 7, 2020 at the Halbritter-Wickens Funeral Home, 615 East Main Street in Niles to motorcade to Mission Hills for graveside services with Pastor David Frazier of Coulter’s Chapel Church of God in Niles officiating. Those who prefer to witness the ceremony via the livestreamed broadcast may do so on the Halbritter-Wickens Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/halbritterwickensfuneralservices/. Contributions in memory of Helen may be made to the Coulter’s Chapel Church of God, 3176 East Detroit Road, Niles, Michigan, 49120; https://coulterschapel.net/. Online condolences may be left at:
Helen will be missed, but the wisdom and values she lived and taught will live on to be remembered and cherished by her family and friends.
Posted On: Thursday, November 5, 2020 10:01 AM