A 105-year Run: Helen Henderson


Helen Henderson, a former teacher who impacted countless lives in the Germantown area, died this past weekend at age 105. 

Her obituary is copied at the bottom of this post. A graveside service will be held Tuesday morning at 11 at Valley View Cemetery on Hover Avenue in Germantown. 

There was a mystical quality about Helen and the things she witnessed during her tenure on this planet. I noted in the introduction to my Interviews From 2015 book that, “when Helen Henderson was born, World War I was still three years away. The world population, at roughly 1.8 billion, was less than a third of today. Automobiles were a novelty for the cutting-edge wealthy. Electricity and indoor plumbing were still a decade or two away for most rural homes in the Hudson Valley. And many veterans of America’s Civil War were still walking around and telling their tales.”

Having a resource like Helen, who received visitors in her home with warmth and wit, was a blessing. I’ll miss talking with her about the speakeasies of Hudson and Germantown during Prohibition; and about the excitement that an airplane, a manmade aberration in the sky, would cause early on; and how kids behaved in the one-room schoolhouse where she began her teaching career; and what types of foods to stay away from if you’re interested in longevity.

Here is a link to the oral history interview from last summer with Helen:


…And to a column I published last month that focused partly on a visit with Helen in July:


And, the obituary:

Helen Coons Henderson, 105, of Linlithgo died at her home surrounded by family and friends on Saturday October 15, 2016.

Helen was born September 25, 1911 in Germantown, the daughter of the late James S. and Jessie (MacDonald) Coons.

After graduating Germantown High School in 1928 in a class of 10, she went to college and acquired a 2 year certificate for teaching due to the shortage of teachers from the war. Helen went on to complete her bachelors degree through correspondence courses. Helen's first job was in the one room schoolhouse in Linlithgo where she taught grades 1 through 8. Helen next moved to the 2 room school house known as Blue Hill and her final move to the recently completed Germantown Central School where she taught until she retired after teaching hundreds of third graders reading, writing (in beautiful cursive) and arithmatic.

She was a member of the Columbia County Teacher’s Association, Germantown Historical Society, Greene County Historical Society, Germantown Garden Club, the Southern Tier Senior Citizens and volunteered at the Germantown Library.

Survivors include her nieces and nephews; Roberta (Phil Cronin) of Washington DC, Richard W. (Debbie) Coons of Germantown, Philip A. (Tammy) Coons of Red Hook, Randall P. (Nancy) of Crescent Springs, KY, James S. Coons of Germantown, Jessie Brassel of Blairsville, Georgia, Joseph Coons of Berthoud, Colorado. As well as several grand nieces and nephews and special friends; Mary Howell, Sandra Crisco, Alvin Sheffer, Pat Hotaling and Dolores Sweet.

As per her wishes a grave-side service will be held 11 a.m. Tuesday at the Valley View Cemetery on Hover Avenue in Germantown.