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Obituary: Virginia Cassady Henker of Little Rock

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Virginia Cassady Henker, longtime resident of Little Rock, died peacefully on Monday, March 11, 2019, in Tallahassee, Fla., by her daughter’s side. Virginia was born in Nashville Ark., the sixth of seven children to Richard Lankston Cassady and Gertrude Walker Cassady. Virginia always said she was raised in a peach orchard, because her father, the county extension service agent, raised the latest varieties of peaches in the family’s commercial orchards. In fact, Virginia, who hated her middle name, Belle, was named after a beautiful new peach variety, Virginia Belle. I guess it’s OK to let that out now. She also had a knowledge of poultry because of their other family business, her father being the first pioneer in Arkansas to have commercial poultry hatcheries. She knew a low secret whistle that would make their whole group of turkeys start gobbling at once. As an adult, she used this talent at the Arkansas State Fair, in the poultry building, causing a cacophony of loud gobbling to the delight of us children and the chagrin of her embarrassed husband.

She was happily married to her husband of 60 years, Dr. Fred O. Henker of Little Rock. Because of early military service, they had multiple postings across the country before settling down again in their beloved Little Rock. Virginia collected, not things, but people, and because of their travels, she remained close to friends as far flung as Africa and the Isle of Man.

Virginia was an English major, and the grammar and spelling queen of our family. She was a writer and editor of great talent. She edited many medical papers and articles. Most recently, she edited a book on biblical history, and a mystery novel by a friend in California.

A highlight in Virginia’s life, was a stint at a missionary hospital in Mbeya, Tanzania, when her husband served as physician while the hospital physician was on medical leave. Virginia worked to entertain the hospitalized children with puppets she had hand made. But the lethargic state of the children suffering with gross malnourishment broke her heart.

In Little Rock, Virginia was a patient services coordinator for the Muscular Dystrophy Clinic. For her outside interests, she was an expert seamstress, and interior designer. After her husband passed, Virginia became a volunteer guide at the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library. Her greatest pleasure was to meet visitors and ask where they were from. She could then tell them that she had either lived there, had friends there, or had visited there, including Africa. She was rarely stumped. 

Her church home was Second Presbyterian Church in Little Rock, where she was an elder. She considered her church as family. Virginia was a woman of optimism, determination, loving tenderness and great faith. Her smile would light up a room. Her sense of mischief was contagious. She was a gracious lady, but she was feisty and would protect her family and loved ones with all her spirit and courage.

Virginia was predeceased by her husband, Dr. Fred O. Henker, their infant daughter, Virginia Gail, their son, William David ( Bill) Henker, and her son-in-law, Dr. Leo Rotan of Tallahassee, whom she considered a second son. She is survived by her daughter, Dr. Gloria Henker Rotan of Tallahassee, her brother, Neely Cassady of Nashville, Ark., her beloved nieces and nephews, a host of friends, and special people she considered adopted “chicks”. 

Thank you to Big Bend Hospice in Tallahassee Fla., for their loving care. 

A memorial service will be held at Second Presbyterian Church in Little Rock, Ark., on Wednesday, March 20th, at 1:30 p.m., with a reception following at the church. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Heifer Project, to Second Presbyterian Church of Little Rock, or to any cancer charity.

Arrangements were by Abbey Funeral Home in Tallahassee, Fla., and Little Rock Funeral Home, (501)224-2200. Virginia’s online guestbook may be signed at www.littlerockfuneralhome.com.