Henriette C Ainsworth

March 6, 1919August 1, 2011

Henriette C. Ainsworth March 6, 1919 – August 1, 2011

Henriette C. Ainsworth was born on March 6, 1919 in Ambon, Indonesia. She had four brothers, and was the only daughter of Hendrik and Charlotta Matulessy. Her father, Hendrik Matulessy was a Lutheran pastor, and worked as a Christian minister throughout the region in East Indonesia surrounding Ambon and Moluccas islands. While her father wanted Henriette to follow his footsteps into the clergy, but Henriette instead chose to become a nurse. Henriette worked at various hospitals during a turbulent period of Indonesian history, as the nation moved from the Dutch colonial era, into World War II and the Japanese occupation, and later into national independence.

As was a tradition among the people from Ambon and the Moluccas’ islands, Henriette’s brothers joined the special forces branch of the Dutch Colonial Army known as the KNIL. During World War II the Japanese swiftly defeated the Dutch Army, the KNIL and Allied forces, and within four months ended 300 years of Dutch colonial rule. During the subsequent Japanese occupation, Henriette’s brothers Richard and Noche died in Japanese prisoner of war camps. Henriette’s oldest brother Benjamin survived the war, and along with many other KNIL soldiers, longed for an independent homeland in Ambon, free from control of the Javanese in Jakarta. Henriette’s brother Johannes chose instead to demobilize from the KNIL army and accept a commission as an officer in the newly formed Indonesian Army. Along with about 12,000 other KNIL soldiers seeking an independent Ambon homeland, Benjamin Matulessy was transported by the Dutch government with his family and eventually settled in the Netherlands.

Immediately after Indonesia achieved its independence in 1949, Henriette was offered an opportunity to extend her nursing education by attending the University of Vermont in Burlington in 1950. While finishing her nursing degree in 1954 Henriette met Captain Jess W. Ainsworth, who was stationed at Ethan Allen Air Force Base. The two fell in love and married, although Henriette had to return to Indonesia to help the government establish a nursing college. After returning to Bandung, Henriette gave birth to her first child, Willard Hendrik Ainsworth on January 5, 1955. Three years later, Henriette and young Willy were reunited with Jess, and the family lived briefly in Japan before Jess was stationed at Honolulu, Hawaii, where their second child, James Reader was born on September 22, 1959.

The Ainsworth family lived from 1960 to 1963 in Sacramento, California and 1963 to 1966 in Oslo, Norway and one year in Amarillo, Texas, before Jess was stationed at Lowry Air Force Base in Denver, where he eventually retired in 1972. A devoted stay-at-home mother, Henriette was an avid gardener and seamstress. She grew many varieties of flowers in her garden, from poppies to marigolds to clematis to roses, and she grew corn, squash, carrots, strawberries, lettuce, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and green onions, which she often shared with neighbors and friends. Henriette loved to play bridge and entertain many people from all over the world who in one way or another became friends with the Ainsworth family. For many students and visitors from Indonesia, Henriette was affectionately known as “Tanta Yet” or “Oma Yet”; she was looked up to as a second aunt or a second mother. Students and other Indonesian expatriates knew they could they could confide in and ask for support. With her kind loving heart, she will be missed by many people.

Henriette is survived by her son James and her beloved grandson, Morris.


  • Memorial Service Friday, August 12, 2011

Henriette C Ainsworth

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