Remembering Frank: Press reporters reminisce about well-liked politician

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Frank Henderson was many things to many people.

As a young man, Frank was first a U.S. Army soldier during World War II and then a reporter in Chicago.

That journalistic instinct to ensure the public has the information to which it is entitled remained fresh in Frank. As a politician, he earned high regard from members of the media for his honesty, authenticity and fearlessness.

He was also kind.

Several years ago, in the early planning days for KTEC, I traveled to Boise with a large delegation of business owners, legislators and other local elected officials. The purpose of the trip was to tour existing professional-technical high schools in that region. Frank was a huge advocate for providing technical skills training to our area's young people.

As the only reporter sitting on a yellow school bus full of lawmakers and other community leaders, I sat alone in one of the bench seats. Everyone was gathered in groups around me chatting. I didn't want to intrude and make anyone uncomfortable, so I kept my distance.

Frank wouldn't have that. He knew what I was doing and came right over and climbed into the seat next to me.

He said, "How you doing, kid? Did you know I used to be a reporter?"

He spent the next 20 minutes on that yellow school bus telling me tales about his days as a cub reporter in Chicago in the 1940s. He recalled an incident that happened when he was trying to get a job at one of the city's big dailies.

The publisher told him he had one shot at a job. Frank was to head out into the city on a Saturday night and bring back something stellar to publish. If he returned with something that was run-of-the-mill, he could look for work elsewhere.

Frank hustled over to one of the big Chicago hotels where he'd heard that the funny, singing pianist, Jimmy Durante, was staying. When Frank got there, he was dismayed to find a long line of reporters with cameras. He got in line and watched as each one walked up and took the same photo of Durante seated at his piano.

By the time Frank got to Durante, Frank was looking pretty down and Durante noticed. Frank told him this photo could make or break him as a journalist.

Durante turned around and stood on his head on the piano bench while Frank snapped the shot. He got the job.

Frank wanted everyone to get the job. He made it his life's work, always striving for job creation, accessibility to skills training and economic development. And he generously shared himself with all of us along the way. A Press online comment-writer noted under the story about Frank's death: "He was truly a great Republican." That he was, but he was also a great human being.

- Maureen Dolan

Frank has been a true gentleman and role model to me during my 14 years at The Press. He made a difference in our community time and time again in a respectful way. I consider it an honor to have associated with him.

Frank was organized. Whenever there was a story idea based on an initiative with which he was associated, he'd present a well-written press release in person as he realized from his experience as the Post Falls Tribune publisher that that would ultimately help lead to an accurate, timely story in the newspaper. If the story hadn't appeared in a couple days, he'd follow up and ask if he could be of further assistance.

I had the privilege of interviewing Frank last fall at his Post Falls home just prior to his induction into the Idaho Hall of Fame.

He showed me his ham radio equipment that he enjoyed. The many types of awards he won, including for economic development, governmental leadership, Boy Scouts, veteran and environmental efforts, were displayed in his basement.

When I asked about them, he humbly said that they're all nice, but quickly reminded me that it took a team to win them.

"These aren't my awards," he said softly. "They're the community's awards."

He shared that he was the smallest player on his high school football team, but he was still able to make a difference with determination and working together with his teammates.

Even in recent days when Frank wasn't feeling well and his days serving as a legislator were over, he attended meetings advocating for what he thought was best for the community. Post Falls' efforts to have a state veterans' home built was an example of that.

I hope that we can use the example that Frank has given us - no matter how small we think we are - to work together to solve problems in a respectful way.

- Brian Walker

Brian Walker sent me a text this morning to soften the blow. It was the first thing I read Tuesday morning. My eyes teared up immediately.

What a loss for the entire region and state for that matter.

I always enjoyed interviewing Frank. He was constantly working on something interesting, but he wasn't all business like many of the people I write about.

He was a very personable man.

Frank never seemed to be grabbing headlines and playing the media like some politicians do. Maybe that was because he was a newspaper man before became a politician.

I remember one time as I was wrapping up an interview with Frank, and we were discussing his amazing background, he discovered I only lived a few blocks from his house. He immediately asked me if I would be willing to substitute for him in his final legislative session.

I talked it over with my editor, Mike Patrick, who was intrigued with the idea, but I later decided it might be too difficult to do that job as a journalist.

Now I kind of wish I had.

Every time I saw Frank, he had a story for me, and he was also interested in my personal endeavors. I think he enjoyed learning about my life as much as I enjoyed writing about his.

I am so going to miss him.

For the past year or two, every time I saw Frank he would end our conversation saying we needed to get together and have a barbecue.

It pains me that we never were able to sync up on that. That's something I will always regret. As I fire my grill tonight, Frank will be on my mind as I pray for his family and friends.

God, I am going to miss you, Frank.

- Jeff Selle

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