James Walter Henderson
March 19, 1923 – February 7, 2019
Longtime Novato resident and former city mayor Jim Henderson, whose life was defined by an unwavering commitment to faith, family and country, died February 7, 2019. He was 95.
A quiet, unassuming man, Jim Henderson would disapprove of this lengthy obituary, but his family believes the story of such an honorable life needs to be shared.
Born the seventh of eight children on March 19, 1923 in West Lake, Louisiana, Jim was two when his family moved to California.
Jim’s then-16-year-old sister, Lella, chronicled the two-week trek in a journal describing the often-harrowing adventures of a large family crossing America in a pair of model T’s, including traveling on wood-planked roads across Arizona’s deserts.
The family’s destination was the tiny town of Diamond Springs, near Placerville in El Dorado County, where a job managing the local lumbermill awaited Jim’s dad.
Jim grew up in Diamond Springs, graduated from El Dorado High School, then pursued his dream of obtaining a college education when he moved to San Francisco and enrolled at USF.
To pay tuition, he worked part-time at what he always called “a filling station” on 19th Avenue in San Francisco. He was at work when the news came across the radio that Pearl Harbor had been attacked. World War II followed, and a year later, Jim’s college career was interrupted when he was drafted into the Army.
Assigned to the 104th Infantry Division Timberwolves, he saw combat starting in the summer of 1944 as the Timberwolves fought their way across France, into Belgium, Holland and, ultimately, Germany. During the Battle of the Bulge, the Timberwolves actively defended their sector, eventually capturing control of the Roer River and the city of Cologne.
For years, like so many of “The Greatest Generation,” Jim did not discuss his combat experiences, including the incident that earned him the Silver Star Medal for valor: under heavy enemy fire, he crawled onto the battlefield to carry an injured comrade to safety.
When Jim finally talked about the war, family and friends didn’t hear about the Silver Star; instead, they heard him recount how others risked their lives under heavy fire to save him from drowning in a river when a damaged bridge collapsed.
In later years, Jim reconnected with his fellow Timberwolves and became active in the group, ultimately serving as national president and eagerly attending regional meetings and annual reunions. His adult children and young grandchildren joined him at the annual events.
After the war, Jim finished college, graduating in 1948 with a bachelor’s degree with an emphasis in Political Science.
In 1949 while on Army Reserve duty at Fort Ord in Monterey, California, Jim met his future wife, Army nurse Marge Hallam. A favorite family story is how Marge emphatically declined Jim’s first invitation for a date. The soldier’s invitation was too last-minute to suit Marge. Nonetheless, the pairing was evidently meant to be, and they married in 1950, embarking on a wonderful love affair that grew to include five children and many happy times. In the early 1950’s, Jim and Marge made home in a brand-new house near downtown Novato, where Jim lived for the rest of his life. He loved the neighborhood, and three generations of neighbors loved him back. As recently as this past Halloween, with evident fondness for the occasion, Jim could identify every trick-or treating neighbor child by name.
Though hard-working and successful in business – first with Western Pine Supply Company and later Rolando Lumber – Jim’s role as father and husband always came first. He was actively engaged in every one of his children’s lives, whether as 4-H leader, homework helper, school volunteer, or sideline fan. His unselfish devotion to Marge, however, remains his most loving act. In 1965, Marge suffered a devastating illness from which she never fully recovered. But with Jim’s devotion and care, Marge enjoyed life for another 28 years.
As the family grew, he was the ever-popular “Uncle Jim” to 40 nieces and nephews, and beloved “Papa” to his grandchildren. He and Nana’s “Camp Henderson” was a favorite summer treat for his grandchildren, a tradition that continued even after Marge passed in 1994.
After being widowed, Jim turned his time and attention to community. He ran for and was handily elected to Novato City Council in 1997 and served as Novato Mayor in 2001. He was named Novato Citizen of the Year in 2005.
Over the course of his nearly century-long life, Jim gave his time to dozens of service and fraternal organizations, including Novato Rotary, the Holy Name Society, VFW and his Timberwolves organization. In recent years, his dear friends at Druids gave him much joy. Throughout his life he remained devoted to his Catholic faith, which extended to active service to the parish of Our Lady of Loretto.
Jim also made sure his children and grandchildren understood the value of public service. He eagerly introduced his grandchildren to community service, having them accompany him to plant flowers in downtown flower boxes, cook hot dogs for fundraisers, and paint creek-protection messages on storm water drains. Papa was never short on ways to serve.
Jim found love again when he met and married Agnes Tripp in 2001. The blended family of nine grown children, spouses, grandchildren and friends kept Jim and Agnes’ Novato home lively. The couple enjoyed travel, cooking and gardening together until declining health limited their activities.
Jim’s life was full until the end. Even as it was clear that time was running out, in late 2018 he stepped up to give away, dance with, and offer a heart-tugging toast to his daughter Diane in her September marriage to John Glischinski. Two weeks later he celebrated with family at the wedding of his granddaughter, Lindsay Cox to Nick Steinberg, where he delivered another moving toast. In October, he traveled to Washington DC with daughter Maggie on an “Honor Flight,” an emotional journey to honor the service of Sgt. Jim Henderson. He then made the trek to Chico for a family Thanksgiving, where he fulfilled his annual task of making gravy. He topped the year with a 20-member family Christmas celebration.
There is so much we will miss about Jim: his talents as a cook and gardener; his beautiful singing voice; his handiness around the house; his mastery of duct-tape repair; his joy for life, his moral clarity, and above all, his love for all of us. We will remember him always, and in all ways.
Jim is survived by his wife Agnes, children Jim Henderson, Jr. (Nannette), Maggie Cox (Dave), Diane Glischinski (John) and John Henderson (Kristi); grandchildren Caitlin Cox, Lindsay Steinberg (Nick), Brian, Matthew, Tyler and Charlotte Henderson, Shaina Greer (Kyle), and Brenna and Devin Glischinski; stepchildren George Tripp (Joanne), Patty Bogel (Bob), Lynn Scadden (Jim) and Jill Costello (Joe) and their children and grandchildren. Jim was preceded in death by his wife Marge and his son Michael, who passed from cancer in 2011.
A funeral Mass celebrating Jim’s life will be held Monday, February 18 at 10 a.m. at Our Lady of Loretto Catholic Church, 1806 Novato Boulevard in Novato. Donations in his name may be made to Homeward Bound of Marin, www.hbofm.org, or the Marge Henderson Memorial Scholarship, c/o of St Vincent de Paul High School, 849 Keokuk Street, Petaluma, CA 94952.
- Homeward Bound of Marin
- Marge Henderson Memorial Scholarship
- Funeral Mass Monday, February 18, 2019
James Walter Henderson
February 17, 2019
Truly one of the finest people I have every had the privilege to meet. Mr Henderson will be missed by all his friends in the Seattle area. Our thoughts and prayers to all Mr. Henderson's family. Steve & Pok Nyo, Joe & Ene-liis and the many other friends in the Greater Seattle area.
Novato VFW Post 7816
February 14, 2019
With deepest sympathy, we offer our condolences to Jim’s family.
Jim was a proud veteran and member of the Novato VFW. Jim's many years of valued participation, “can do” attitude, and willingness to lend a helping hand will always be remembered and sincerely appreciated by our members. Jim will be deeply missed, and will always be in our thoughts. He was a true leader.
On behalf of the members of Novato VFW Post 7816, God Speed, Jim...with a slow hand salute Sir.
Deb and John Spatafore
February 14, 2019
We are so glad that Jim had a final year of utter happiness at both Lindsey’s and Diane’s weddings. I will always remember him bringing down the house when he shouted , “louder!“ When Diane said “ I do “ to John. A great patriarch for a great family. Our hearts are with you.
February 13, 2019
Jim Henderson was the *amazing* husband of my mother's best friend in Novato.
Marge had a major influence on my young life and I will never forget her.
Bob and Mary Ann have left us, as well, in 2006 and 2010, respectively.
My mother believed Jim Henderson to be the most loving, devoted, caring and genuine man she'd ever known. Saint Jim.
I am happy he had such a full life following Marge's passing. He could not have done more for her. Or his beloved town, which it was in 1950! Wutta guy!!!!
I am sure he is with Marge and Michael. Condolences to all!
February 11, 2019
Whenever I think of the Henderson family, it is the legacy of love and family that comes to mind. Jim was the patriarch of such a wonderful family, including one of my very, very best friends- Diane! All of you carry on his love for family and community. He will be with you always. He was such a special father and always included friends in that special space. I smile whenever I think of him. He will be missed, but how lucky you all were to have him for such a long and happy time. Sending love to you all! ❤️❤️❤️