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Brenda Henson, Camp Sister Spirit Co-Founder Remembered

Obituary for Brenda Henson written by Wanda Henson, the co-founders of Camp Sister Spirit/SisterSpirit, Inc.

Brenda Kay Henson, age 62, Dumas, Arkansas, passionately devoted, loving, faithful, protective and courageous wife of Wanda Faye Reeves Henson, went to be with her awaiting family on the other side, at 11:47pm February 8, 2008. She died peacefully at home in the grateful arms of her wife and surrounded by family and longtime friends.

She is survived by her wife Wanda Reeves Henson; sister Barbara Ley, Chauncey, Ohio; daughter Andie Gibbs (and life wife Terri Valenti), Ovett, Mississippi; daughter Terri Elliott, Omaha, Nebraska; son Robin Gibbs (and spouse Ann Miller), Jemison, Alabama; son Arthur Elliott, Reno, Nevada; grandchildren Vannessa Gibbs, Britney Elliott, Arthur Elliott, III, (and Brittney & Arthur’s mother Leslie Melancon), Alexandria Elliott; greatgrandchildren Leighton Albin, Alyssa Albin; numerous nieces, nephews and self-identified ‘children’.

Born September 25, 1945 in Lebanon, Ohio, reared in Loveland, Ohio, she was preceded in death by her parents Herman Oliver Brandenburg and Mary Eliza Brandenburg and her brother James H. DeBord.

She was beloved by everyone who knew her.

Proudest Moments:

1. Consecrating in holy matrimony her 20 year committed relationship with her wife in the Great State of Massachusetts on May 24, 2004; thus reaping the benefits of the social justice communities hard won rights and her life’s work as an Adult Educator Social Transformationist.
2. Despite dropping out of school in ninth grade, she earned her GED in 1982, a Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree by 1992 and an Education Specialist degree (Ed.S.) with emphasis on Teaching Displaced Homemakers, all from the University of Southern Mississippi.
3. She co-founded with Wanda in 1987, Southern Wild Sisters Bookstore, a feminist resource center, Gulfport, Mississippi; in 1989, the public charity Sister Spirit, Incorporated and in 1989, Camp Sister Spirit, a Feminist Education and Cultural Retreat Center, Ovett, Mississippi.
4. After the local, primarily Christian Community held town meetings to run her organization out of town, she appeared on Oprah and other talk shows to defend her organization’s right to own property as Lesbians.
5. She was a guest lecturer at 55 universities, speaking on the topic: ’From the Frontlines- Homophobia in the US Today; a First Person Accounting’.
6. In 2001, The University of Ulster-Jordanstown Students Union hosted the Hensons for a 2 week fact-finding and speaking tour in the North of Ireland. They were issued a Parliamentary invitation, were the honored guests of Eileen Bell (MLA-Alliance Party) and Patricia Lewsley (MLA-Social Democratic Labour Party), and addressed members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) at Stormont, discussing the exclusion of civil rights for Gays and Lesbians in America (Lesbian and Gay Irelanders are protected by their government in the Good Friday Peace Agreement).
7. Countless awards of recognition and achievement including 1994 Uncommon Woman of the Year from the Uncommon Legacy Foundation, Certificate of Tribute for courage and strength in the struggle against Bigotry and Discrimination by creating ‘Camp Sister Spirit’, from The City of Los Angeles: 1995 Entrepreneur of Year from Victory! Magazine: and a Commendation for Bravery from the Congress of the United States House of Representatives.
8. She cherished the friendships of Dr. Louise McFarland and Shirley Kirkconnell, US Rep. Barney Frank, (D-Mass); internationally acclaimed feminist author Phylis Chesler, and Lesbian Activist Pioneer Robyn Tyler.

Her life’s dream, to live in peace until her demise, was not accomplished but she tried until the end to enjoy happiness and love every minute with her devoted wife. And she did.

She survived recurrent colon cancer for 4 years, empowered by her belief in positive thinking and never stopped hoping for a cure for all colon cancer. The family encourages everyone to prevent colon cancer by getting a screening colonoscopy at age 50.

The family expresses gratitude to Dr. Tammy Young and all the Oncology nurses at Headerman Cancer Center, Jackson, MS; Dr. Stacey McCord, Oncologist Little Rock, AR; Dr.Sadeen Mahmood, Cardiologist, Pine Bluff, AR, attending physician February 4,2008 at St. Vincent Hospital North, Little Rock, AR, and deep appreciation to Rev. Ayla Heartsong, Silver Circle Sanctuary, MS.

Memorial scattering of ashes will be held at 2:00pm, Sunday, February 17, 2008 at Moses Pier, Hwy 49, Gulfport, Mississippi. Arrangements provided by Roselawn Crematory, Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to SisterSpirit, Inc/Camp Sister Spirit, PO Box 12, Ovett, MS 39464 or Rainbow Law, RR 1, Box266C,Wallace WV 26448; or to a social justice organization of one’s choice.

Condolences may be sent to Wanda Henson, 317 Adams St., Dumas AR 71639, or bkins45@centurytel.net.


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