Viewing & Visitation
Obituary of Gertrude Vernell Henderson
Mrs. Gertrude Vernell Towns Henderson, founding matriarch and general manager of Henderson’s Mortuary, Inc, passed from labor to rest on Thursday, June 1, 2023, at Magnolia, AR. Mrs. Henderson was 99 years young.
Mrs. Henderson was born the fourth of five children of Charlie H. Towns and Candace Doles Towns in Dermott, Arkansas. Her parents were farmer/bricklayer and classroom teacher, respectively. She and her siblings enjoyed a hardworking, but happy and Christian upbringing.
After completing High School in Chicot County, Mrs. Henderson went on to complete her baccalaureate degree at the prestigious Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in Tuskegee, Alabama. Later she received her Master's in Home Economics from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. She was a licensed funeral director, life insurance agent, and notary public in the state of Arkansas.
She began her career as a Home Economics teacher at CS Woodard HS in McKamie, AR. Later, she joined Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, where she served as Home Economist in Nevada, Jefferson, and Columbia counties. While there, Mrs. Henderson's work received many accolades and awards, including twice Agent of the Year, guiding six 4 H'ers as delegates to National Congress in Washington D.C., once as Agent in Charge, and working with three families who were awarded Farmer of the Year Awards. She guided young people on 4H tours to Hot Springs, Air Force bases in Bossier City, LA and Little Rock, Petit Jean, Mound Bayou MS, and Memphis, TN. After 33 years of service, she retired and joined her husband, the late A.C. Henderson, founder and past president of Henderson's Mortuary, Inc., in funeral service.
She served Magnolia, AR, and surrounding communities tirelessly and gracefully for decades. She served as a committee member for the Rural Life Conference at UAPB; she developed floor plans for the Fellowship Hall at Bethlehem Baptist Church where she and her husband, who served as general contractor, are members; she developed the plans for each Henderson's Mortuary facility, including the chapel at the present location at 614 Calhoun Rd., Magnolia. She has served on the Selective Service System Board for 10 years and the Magnolia Housing Authority Board for 29 years. She has received Outstanding Achievement in Quality Sales and Service Awards from Ashley Life Insurance. In addition, she was secretary/treasurer of the Henderson Burial Association and the proprietress of Henderson's Mortuary, Inc., where "Mrs. H" and her staff have provided quality funeral services for over 70 years.
Fondly called "Aunt Vernell", she was definitely the auntie to be around. She garnered a crowd of generations of nieces and nephews who gathered to learn from her wisdom and wit. Her nieces, nephews, and cousins describe her as fun-loving, faithful, and always of comedic humor. Vernell had a joke to tell every day. She was an amazing culinarian that provided catering services which included wedding cakes adorned with pastry artistry. She was a craftsman of all sorts. She enjoyed traveling, within the U.S. and internationally.
Her personal style and elegant dress never wavered from the day of her wedding to the end of life as she sported her cute leggings and showed them off at the funeral home! She allowed people to learn from her by demonstrating her talents, giving of her time, and certainly paying it forward to the next generations in all walks of life. She inspired and empowered all her family members and friends to be the best in life and put God first in all their work and aspirations. Her patience and kindness impacted us all. Even though she had no children her extended family considered her head MOTHER in charge.
Preceded in death by her beloved husband of fifty-nine years, Aaron Carl Henderson, her parents and her two brothers: Prembrook Towns and Fredrick Towns. Mrs. Henderson leaves cherished memories with her one remaining sibling, her sister, Ernestine Williams, of Miami, FL; four neices: Willarena Ashe (Alexander) of Houston, TX, Althea Howell (Everett) of Morivian Falls, NC, Roniece Weaver (Curtis) of Orlando, FL, Rojean Williams of West Palm Beach, FL, nine nieces and nephews including her eldest nephew, James Towns of Phoenix, AZ, her godson, Jeffrey Flanigan, of Little Rock, AR and a great host of other relatives, surrogate "children" and friends.
In lieu of flowers, Mrs. Henderson requested that donations be made to The Arkansas Childrens Hospital or to The Tuskeegee University.