John Henderson—the oldest living former UT football player—has a lot to celebrate: 100 years of life, 73 years of marriage, and 80 years attending Longhorn football games.
“Two, four, six, eight, who do we appreciate? John, John Henderson!”
“John, when we grow up, we want to be just like you.”
“There’s no friend like John.”
These were just a few of the sentiments shared by celebrants at yesterday’s Texas-sized 100th birthday party for John Henderson—the oldest living UT football letterman, a lifelong Longhorn superfan, and the unofficial mayor of the Texas Exes’ Longhorn Village retirement community.
More than 200 people gathered yesterday at the Steiner Ranch community to ring in Henderson’s Dec. 24 birthday three weeks early. Henderson, BA ’36, and his wife Charlotte, BS ’37, Life Members, will also celebrate their 73rd wedding anniversary on Dec. 22. The couple was the very first to move into Longhorn Village when it opened in 2009.
As every accolade imaginable—proclamations, a video tribute, live music by a brass quintet, poems, cheers, gifts, champagne toasts, cake, and more—was presented to him at the party, Henderson smiled and shook his head in disbelief. Spry and quick-witted, Henderson attributes his good health and sharp mind to the three miles he has walked daily for more than 50 years. He even lifts weights in the community’s fitness center.
Proclamations from Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, President Jimmy Carter, and Texas Exes President John Beckworth were all read at the party. Leffingwell’s letter even designated Dec. 24 as John Henderson Day in Austin.
“Some people bleed orange, but none more appropriately than John Henderson,” Leffingwell’s proclamation said. “He still weighs within 5 pounds of his football-playing weight.”
At the end of the party, Henderson himself was finally called to speak. “I’m overwhelmed,” he said. “I don’t believe I have any words to say. When Charlotte and I were at our wedding 73 years ago, we never expected anything like this in all our lives.”
Below, watch the video tribute, produced by John Fitch, to Henderson that was presented at the party:
Cary Michael Cox:
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