Mourners braved freezing temperatures and spilled over into the balcony of the First Baptist Church Saturday morning to say farewell to Stephenville Junior High School Principal Paul Henderson.

Junior High choir teacher Kim Jones opened ceremonies with a beautiful rendition of “Amazing Grace,” followed by a service officiated by Dr. Kyle Davis.

Davis is the former pastor of Harvey Baptist Church where Henderson was a member. He married Henderson and his wife Linda in 1991.

“Family was a priority for Paul,” Davis said. “Paul was a great man. He was a godly man and he touched all of our lives.”

Henderson’s educational career in Stephenville spanned more than three decades, during which time he touched countless lives throughout the community. An entire section of the church was reserved for past and present Stephenville Independent School District administrators and faculty who had worked with Henderson. In the balcony, a large group of current Junior High students sat together to pay respect.

After graduating from Tarleton State University, Henderson began his career with SISD as a math teacher in 1971. He became principal at the school in 1978 and held the position for 29 years.

His life was cut short by an apparent heart attack at the age of 57 last Tuesday evening.

The service was marked with tears and funny stories showing Henderson’s humorous side and his love for his job.

“Every time I was around Paul he always started talking about junior high,” Davis said.” It was just a treat to get to listen to Paul talk about some great event or student.”

Stephenville Junior High Assistant Principal Bob Cervetto spoke to those in attendance. Cervetto recalled how when Henderson wanted his attention, he would use his name three times, saying “Bobby, Bobby, Bobby.”

Amid tears and laughter, Cervetto shared his memories of the man he considered to be both a role model and friend.

“What a guy, what a solid rock, he loved everybody,” Cervetto said.

“He believed all kids had good in them.”

Cervetto called Henderson a master of people and a master of kids.

“I’m going to miss my mentor and friend,” Cervetto said. “I know he’s at the Pearly Gates and he’s saying to St. Peter, right now, ‘Did I tell you the one about the blond?”

Also, as part of the service a slide show highlighting Henderson’s life and career was shown. At the close of the slide show a picture of the junior high marquis read, “Paul Henderson Jr. High School - It just sounds right,” drew applause from the crowd.

Pallbearers for the ceremony included, Tim Mangrum, Johnny Huffman, Charlie Henderson, Billy Hassler, Bob Cervetto, Waco Reynolds, Tyler Chaplin and Randy Shaw.

Interment followed at the Garden of Memory Cemetery.

Angelia Joiner is a staff writer for the Empire-Tribune and can be reached at 254-965-3964 ext. 238 or email, angelia.joiner@empiretribune.com