Obituary: Rosemary Whiteside Henderson

Civic leader, teacher, mother, grandmother, avid volunteer, musician

Longtime Claremont resident Rosemary Henderson died September 2 at the Rauch Houses memory care center at Pilgrim Place. She was 82.

The family shared that the principal gift from the Rauch Family Foundation to Pilgrim Place for the construction of the Rauch Houses, which opened in March of this year, was inspired by Rosemary’s friendship.

Rosemary Whiteside was born on July 31, 1940, in Lubbock, Texas. Her future husband, Butch Henderson, lived one block away on the same street. The couple met in fifth grade and began dating in ninth grade. They married on August 18, 1962, at St. Paul’s on the Plains Episcopal Church in Lubbock, right after college graduation. Their honeymoon was a trip from Lubbock to New Haven, Connecticut, where Butch would attend Yale Divinity School. The couple celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary this year.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Texas in 1962 and a second bachelor’s in education from University of Kansas in 1974. She added a California teaching credential at the University of La Verne in the 1990s.

She began her career in 1962, teaching English at Wallingford High School in Connecticut, a job that helped put her husband through his studies at Yale. From 1970 to 1974 she taught preschool at St. Christopher’s Episcopal School in her hometown of Lubbock. In 1989 she returned to teaching in neighboring La Verne. Perhaps her proudest achievement was developing the model computer lab for elementary students at Allen Avenue School in La Verne. While there she received the Bonita Unified School District teacher of the year award. She retired in 2007.

The couple’s first child, Mark, was born in 1964 in New Haven, followed by daughter Claire in 1967, after the family returned to Lubbock. A second daughter, Maria, was born in Lawrence, Kansas in 1976.

The family moved to Claremont in 1986 when Butch became the senior pastor at Claremont United Church of Christ. They lived in a ranch style home near Claremont High School until moving to Pilgrim Place in 2013.

“We moved here when I was 10 and my brother and sister were already in college, so I was like an only child,” her daughter Maria Tucker said. “I like to claim to be from Kansas, but really I am a California girl.”

As the family settled into life in California, she became a Claremont softball mom, attending all of Maria’s games as well as dance classes and cheerleading competitions. More recently she became a “soccer grandma,” attending all of her granddaughter Claire’s games.

She was also deeply involved in community leadership in the City of Trees.

Friend and longtime Claremont resident Helaine Goldwater said, “I knew Rosemary for over 30 years. We worked closely together on a lot of things, mostly nonprofits here in Claremont. We had the ability to almost know what the other was thinking.”

Goldwater shared that her friend was able to make just about anybody happy. Even if you did not agree with her opinion, you never felt antagonism.

“Our friendship was very special to both of us, and she will be greatly missed,” she said.

Another longtime friend, Kay Held, met the Hendersons through their work at Claremont United Church of Christ.

“Rosemary retained her Southern charm,” Held said. “She was warm, extremely capable and fun. She was always a pleasure to be with and had a great sense of humor.”

Music was one of her main avocations and she sang in the church choir and later in the chorale at Pilgrim Place. Tucker recalled playing the piano with her mother, with one person playing the left hand of the score and the other playing the right, and then they would stand up and switch places.

“She was best mom ever. I scored with my parents,” she said. “She was really funny, kind,  and a nice person and also made sure I learned to be a respectful human who volunteered and wrote thank you notes.”

Another hobby was collecting children’s books. She enjoyed going to Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, particularly when it hosted author book signing events. While her husband chided her about what she was going to do with all the books, he has since learned that some of the signed editions are quite valuable.

She could be sentimental, and her favorite pastime was for the whole family to be together, according to her daughter.

“And we all enjoyed being together,” Tucker said, adding that the family took road trips every summer, usually to visit family.

“Every Sunday we went to church, no matter whether I had a sleepover the night before. We sang in the choir and rang choir bells,” she said. After church was over and all the many pastoral tasks were completed, Sunday afternoons were reserved just for family.

She served on the boards of the Claremont Community Foundation, Mt. San Antonio Gardens, the Greater Pomona Housing Development Corporation, Pilgrim Place, and the Petterson Museum. She served as chair of the Clinebell Pastoral Counseling Center, chair of the Claremont Committee on Aging, and as founding chair of the Claremont Senior Foundation.

She received the Bradley Award for Community Service from Claremont Rotary and the Los Angeles YWCA’s Woman of Achievement Award. In 2006, the Hendersons were co-grand marshals of Claremont’s annual Fourth of July parade.

The family joked, “Is it any wonder that Butch has often been called ‘Mr. Rosemary Henderson?’”

“Most of all, Rosemary was a ‘people person’ and leaves gifts of love to all of us,” her husband said.

She is survived by her husband Butch; son Mark Henderson, of Lawrence, Kansas; daughter Maria Henderson Tucker and her husband Eric Tucker of Claremont; and five grandchildren.

Her daughter Claire Henderson died in 1994.

A memorial service will take place at 10 a.m. Saturday, October 1 at Claremont United Church of Christ, 233 Harrison Ave. Please dress informally for comfort in warm weather and observe Covid protocols.

Memorial gifts may be made care of CUCC to the Rosemary Henderson Memorial Fund on the church’s website at claremontucc.org, or by check to CUCC with “Rosemary Henderson Memorial Fund” in the memo line. Gifts will be divided among the annual Hunger Walk, the Claremont UCC Capital Initiative, and the Pilgrim Place Resident Health and Support Fund.

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