Marge Henry, mother to Fort Wayne’s mayor and 16 others, dies at age 89

Marge Henry, showin in 2007 with late husband Jerry Sr., died Monday at the age of 89. (News-Sentinel.com file photo)
Jerry Henry

Marganelle Henry, the mother of Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry and 16 other children, died Monday morning at the age of 89.

“She died at home in her sleep, as she wanted to die. She had been in a lot of pain,” said son Jerry, a prominent local businessman. “She wanted to go see Dad. She was a great lady and mother’s mother, and I Ioved her very much.”

Mayor Henry’s office said it planned no formal statement, but in a 2007 interview with the News-Sentinel “Marge” Henry and husband Jerry Sr. talked about the challenges — and rewards — of having such a large family.

Living on Jerry’s meager social-worker salary, the Henrys had seven children before they even owned a car. An old wringer-style washer kept the kids’ hand-me-down or homemade clothes clean, if not looking quite like new. But complaints were few, Jerry Sr. said at the time.

It’s not how you much you make, it’s how you spend it,” said Henry, whose social-worker career ended when he retired as director of Catholic Charities in 1991 after 22 years. “We didn’t drink; we didn’t smoke; people donated clothes; Marge sewed, and was a great cook.”

“As a man, you’re talking logistics,” responded Marge. “We were successful because we adored our kids. I was so happy to start each day.”

Tom Henry said at the time that “There are several things Mom and Dad taught us and lived that have served us all well. As devout Catholics, they provided a strong religious foundation. They weren’t into physical punishment, but they would always sit us down and explain why certain things were right or wrong. And Dad’s social work provided a desire to serve others. That’s why I chose public service – to give back to the community.”

Being part of a large family with few physical resources also taught the value of hard work, said Jerry Jr., the couple’s oldest child. “I saw Mom was sometimes overwhelmed, and Dad wasn’t always home, so I had to step up. We had an old coal-fired furnace, and I helped shovel coal. Mom denied herself to raise the kids, but she never complained. It was a great experience, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Jerry Henry Sr. died in 2008 at the age of 82, ending 59 years of marriage. In addition to social work, Henry served as a superintendent of the Indiana Reformatory from 1966 to 1968.

Jerry Henry Jr. said details are still being worked out with Divine Mercy Funeral Home in Fort Wayne but said calling will probably be Thursday followed by a Friday service.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)