“Mother” Mary Henry 1926 – 2009
“Mother” Mary Henry Laid to Rest
The Homecoming to “Mother” Mary Henry was called “A Celebration of A Legend” and the final tribute to this community icon dignified the quality and splendor of the wonderful life she lived.
By Yussuf J. Simmonds
Sentinel Assistant Managing Editor
A Civil Rights Leader, educator and community activist, Mary B. Henry was laid to rest in a celebration befitting the community icon that she was. That she was affectionately called “Mother Henry” is itself a tribute to her work, her commitment and the quality of life she lived helping, mentoring and guiding others.
Though Mother Henry was best known as the guiding force leading the Avalon Carver Community Center, she was that indeed and much, much more. Her compassionate, yet strong leadership led the center to succeed in its core mission to provide services dictated by the needs of the community. She served the Los Angeles community as the head of Avalon Carver for over 30 years and when she retired, she continued serving the community. Mother Henry served as a member and president of the Compton Unified School District Board of Trustees and the Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science where the Mary B. Henry Child Development Center was named in her honor.
The great testimonials given in memory of her were adorned by the musical renditions and scripture readings, which added to the stature of Mother Henry as a treasure to be remembered.
To Congresswoman Maxine Waters, she was an inspiration for the entire community and served as a model to shape the lives of those whom she mentored, and a personal loss. The Congresswoman issued the following statement: “Mary Henry was a dear friend and I’m deeply saddened by her loss. She had suffered for quite sometime now and though I am relieved that she is free from the pain of her long illness, her death is a great loss for our community and a personal loss for me. For years Mary was not only the founder and Executive Director of the Avalon Carver Community Center, which provided social services for needy families and individuals such as housing support, education opportunities, and health care, but she was also a concerned and engaged citizen of the community who knew what the stakes were for many of the less fortunate that she worked and lived among. She was a role model for me and other aspiring community leaders. You could count on Mary working with other community leaders to be at the forefront of all the issues of concern to the overall South Los Angeles Community.”
Mother Henry had the ability to help people find a way where others saw no way. That was the essence of her being.
Her grandson, LaMarr Henry, who rendered the audience speechless with a musical selection, “My Soul’s Been Anchored in the Lord,” during the celebration and then spoke of her in deeply solemn terms. He said, “God wanted to push equality and enrich the quality within the community; He wanted the world and the church to be inspired, so He created Mary B. Henry. No matter how many tears we cried, the good memories outnumber them all.” In addition to his words, LaMarr wrote a tribute about his grandmother: “If I had the privilege to write a book in your honor, it would have to be produced in volumes like a dictionary because you’re just that extraordinary. You once told me, ‘Grandmothers are God’s gift to children … and parents.’ You’ve proven that to be true. I’ll try my best to carry on the special legacy you have created. I love you more than anyone will ever realize.”
Danny J. Bakewell, Sr. spoke of the wonderful moments Mother Henry and he shared in the struggle to make the community a better place, and though they were both community activists, she also had the Mother’s gift that was hers naturally. She loved and gave to her family, her church and the community. When the Brotherhood Crusade honored her, Bakewell said, “It is her amazing gift of giving of herself to others who are struggling to lift the oppressive weight of despair from their shoulders that we honor, love and appreciate her as a Pioneer of Black Community Development.”
“The fondest memory I have of Mary Henry is her unique, innate ability to galvanize people around a cause,” Bishop Robert T. Douglas, Sr. started, “especially if the cause was relative to improving their present life situation for the good of all that is involved in the process.” Bishop Douglas, who is the pastor of the Jacob Apostolic Church in Inglewood and Riverside, gave the obituary at Mother Henry’s celebration and said that she was very intimately involved in his success in life. He continued, “Three things she helped me with that stand out more than anything else. A true and secure salvation in terms of where I desire to live in eternity. Second, to acquire an education – from the baccalaureate, to the graduate to the doctorate which I’ve acquired all three, she taught me that salvation and education and legalized capitalization were the formidable forces to overcome any oppressive situation. The third thing was when legalization capitalization is in the possession of a person with an education and a future in eternity, I can go and acquire property, I could sustain my family, I can contribute to the welfare and the good of, not only my community but to others, and I’ll be an asset to my people.”
Mother Henry was the recipient of numerous awards and she was involved in a number of community, educational and social organizations. She was preceded in death by her husband, Louis Charles Henry, and her eldest son Raymond. Her other sons, who are left to cherish her memories are Louis, Paul and Craig; her brother Raymond Bradshaw and sisters, Geraldine Pye and Joan Shaw; along with a myriad of grandchildren, nieces, nephews and cousins.