(Posted May 7, 2020)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
Very few people living today can say they experienced not one, but two pandemics during their lifetimes. London resident Geraldine Henry is one of those people.
Geraldine was 5 years old in 1918 at the onset of the Spanish flu, which lasted into 1919 and infected nearly a third of the world’s population. When sharing stories about the pandemic, Geraldine referred to it as “the terrible sickness.”
“She used to talk about how when she and her mother came into town from the farm, her mother would have her wait outside the store. She wouldn’t let her go in,” said Cindy Gross, who has known Geraldine her entire life and serves as her power of attorney.
Also from that time, Geraldine recalled how the church her family attended on Route 56 was closed for several months.
Now, she is living through the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and in the midst of it, turned 107 years old.
Born on April 28, 1913, Geraldine is the only child of the late William and Cora Henry. William was a farmer who later served as caretaker of First United Methodist Church of London. Cora was a housewife.
The family moved from the country to East Fourth Street in London in 1945, where Geraldine lived until six years ago when she became a resident at Sisters On Elm assisted living center in London. The East Fourth Street house sits across the street from the Methodist church, where Geraldine was a Sunday school teacher, church historian and member of several committees.
A graduate of Cedarville College, Geraldine spent her working life as a teacher, first at Catawba High School then at Northeastern High School. She primarily taught American history.
“She was loved by all of her students,” Cindy said. “And she loved her students. Whenever you talk to any of them, they say she was firm but fair and she always treated everyone equally.”
For many, many years, Geraldine attended the Catawba school reunions.
The same care she showed to her students, Geraldine showed to her parents, for whom she cared into their late years, and to others.
“She used to make angel food cakes whenever someone was sick, there was a death, or someone needed a pick-me-up. That was kind of her ministry,” Cindy said.
Geraldine also adores cats. At one time, she had a cat named Ruffey that she walked on a leash like a dog. She also was known to take alley cats under her wing.
“Whenever she started feeding one of them, I’d say that was that cat’s lucky day to have met Geraldine Henry. She spoiled them. She took really good care of them–not just feeding them but taking them to the vet, too.”
Known for her quick wit and sense of humor, Geraldine also is known for having a big appetite.
“One of her favorite expressions is, “I can eat like a farmhand,’” Cindy said, noting that Geraldine watched her mother feed the farm workers during the Depression. “And she still has a great appetite, especially for cookies.”
Here’s to a full life.