Gerald D Henson, 73, passed on Sunday, June 20, 2021 after a 20 year battle with Parkinson’s disease.
Known for his wit and quirky sense of humor, Gerald was always quick to trade quips with anyone he met. His good nature and strong work ethic gave him a reputation as one who could be counted upon by his community to be fair and a man of his word. Gerald will be deeply missed by his family, friends and all that knew him.
Born in Colfax, Washington in 1948, Gerald was the only child of Vern and Martha Henson. While he grew up in Pullman, in a house near the top of West Main Street, he spent many hours on his grandfather’s farm southwest of town. Gerald would often recount stories of his adventures on the farm with his grandfather, Ben, and his cousin Ken. The two boys, being just 15 months apart, were like brothers and were the cause of much mischief around the farm.
Attending school in Pullman, he graduated high school in 1966 and enlisted in the US Coast Guard where he served four years of active duty on the Oregon and Washington coasts. Gerald’s experience on the farm working with diesel engines made him a natural in the engine room of the Coast Guard Cutter Yacona, a 214-foot sea-going tug. Later he served at the lifeboat station in Ilwaco, WA, and then at Smith Island lighthouse in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Gerald married his high school sweetheart, Kathleen Jennings, on April 5, 1969. After completing his commitment to the Coast Guard, the couple moved to Portland, OR where Gerald attended Portland Community College graduating with a degree in dental technology. Ever a hard worker, Gerald also worked as a part time janitor at the school as well as at the camera and jewelry counter in the local K-mart.
Along the way, he picked up the hobby of clock repair. Appealing to his meticulous mechanical nature, fixing the intricate clock mechanisms was a natural fit. He enjoyed this hobby for much of the rest of his life.
Gerald and Kathy returned to Pullman in 1974 where he began working on the family farm. Soon he took over operations from his father who was wanting to retire. He worked the family farm through 11 years of good times and bad.
In 1985, with an eye toward retiring from farming, Gerald began working part time for the school district as a substitute bus driver. Gerald used to joke that for his first 18 months working for the school district, he was never off probation having gone from substitute to full time bus driver to Transportation Department Mechanic during that time. Gerald eventually rose to the position of Director of Transportation and led the department for 16 years. After a very successful 21-year career, he retired from the School District in the spring of 2006 due to the onset of Parkinson’s disease.
A self-proclaimed tinkerer, Gerald exercised his creativity by repurposing scrap iron into works of art that he shared with family and friends. Other than his family, Gerald’s greatest passion was his trains. The electric train that he was given as a boy started that love of trains that lasted his entire life, resulting in many friendships, hours of building layouts and sharing trains with his community. He was a founding member of the Inland Northwest Garden Railroad Society in which he was an active member until this year.
Gerald was a contributing author to the Whitman County Historical Society’s Bunchgrass Historian, writing stories about life growing up on a farm in the Palouse.
Gerald is survived by his wife of 52 years, Kathy, his children Aaron (Annie) Henson of Spokane, WA Andrea Henson (Alex Boughamer) of Moscow, ID; and one grandson Matthew Henson of Spokane, WA.
In memory of Gerald, contributions may be made to The Michael J. Fox Parkinson’s Foundation, P. O. Box 5014, Hagerstown, MD 21741-5014. Or to the Pullman Regional Hospital Foundation, 840 SW Bishop Blvd., Suite 200, Pullman, WA 99163.
To send flowers to Gerald's family, please visit our floral store.