Henderson Junior High - it just sounds right.
Many say that renaming Stephenville Junior High to Henderson Junior High would be a fitting tribute to the man who loved it so.
“That building was Paul,” Randy Shaw, friend and colleague for more than 40 years, said. “He lived the plans and worked so hard to make the facility the best it could be for everyone. He spent hours and hours pouring over the plans and details.”
Stephenville Junior High Principal since 1978, Paul Henderson died Tuesday night in his home of an apparent heart attack.
Henderson began his teaching career at the Junior High when it was located on Washington Street and began teaching math next door to Shaw in 1971. Before that, they both went to Tarleton State University where they met and became friends.
“I think Paul was most proud of being a dad and a granddad,” Shaw said. “Paul was a special person, he cared about everybody. He was the best principal a kid could have.”
Shaw said the last time he saw Henderson was last Thursday or Friday, a day when Henderson pulled out his new calendar and told him his retirement date was already written in - May 2009. It was about the time Henderson’s oldest grandson, Mathew, would enter 7th grade and he wanted a free schedule to attend his athletic events.
“He didn’t want to leave, he was doing exactly what he wanted to do,” Shaw said. “He lived life to the fullest and he was a special person who cared about everybody.”
Shaw said Henderson hoped to travel to Washington D.C. on the school’s annual trip once more before retiring.
Stephenville Independent School District Board Member, Ora Lee Leeth, remembered the time in the late 1990s when the district wanted to reassign Henderson and remove him from the principal position.
“I went to the school board meeting as an interested person. I wasn’t a board member then,” Leeth said. “The auditorium was packed and they were all there to support Paul. Many spoke to the board in favor of him and the board ultimately decided not to reassign him. Paul was shocked and surprised at the support he received. There were some rallies around town. He didn’t expect that many people to be in his corner and he was very pleased.”
“It’s pretty obvious what people thought of him. That was evident during the reassignment controversy,” Shaw said. “There are only two things that could bring people out like that - a sporting event or Paul Henderson.”
Leeth was a sixth grade social studies teacher and remembers Henderson as a fun loving person. She recalled a prank that he pulled on her and how he got every child in the sixth grade involved.
Leeth said there was a pep rally the same day as her birthday, and as usual, each class competed for the spirit stick by yelling and screaming. Whichever class was the loudest was awarded the spirit stick for the week.
“I had my sixth graders pumped up to win the spirit stick,” Leeth said. “What I didn’t know was that Paul had gone behind my back and told them all to stay seated and remain very quiet when our class was called. Therefore, I was the only human being that stood up and made a sound. I looked like an idiot. He loved to tell that story.”
Leeth said she and Henderson played jokes on each other all the time.
Leeth also supervises student teachers for Tarleton and recently recommended one of those students for a math position at the Junior High. She began teaching seventh grade math this year.
Leeth said when she saw Shawna Isbell in the school hall the morning after Henderson’s death she conveyed a thought to her that said a lot about Henderson.
“She told me, ‘I didn’t think of him as a boss, he was a friend, because he cared about me,’” Leeth said. “And that’s just the kind of person he was. Here’s a new teacher that he had already befriended, and she knew she was cared about. That says a lot about him. He got to live his dream. He loved being a principal.”