Local leader Henderson dies

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World War II veteran Frank Henderson makes a speech after being honored as one of two Veterans of the Year by the Post Falls Veterans Committee in this May 26, 2014 Press file photo. Henderson died late Monday night at Hospice House.

POST FALLS — Whether it was for the community, state or nation, Frank Henderson loved to humbly serve.

Henderson, who at 91 was the oldest lawmaker to serve in the Idaho Legislature, died at Hospice House late Monday night, according to friends. He was 92.

The World War II veteran also served as Post Falls' mayor and as a Kootenai County commissioner and was a newspaper publisher in Post Falls.

Last October he became the 10th Kootenai County resident to be inducted into the Idaho Hall of Fame. 

"Solutions have always been a part of me," Henderson told The Press in an interview before the ceremony.

County commissioners on Tuesday ordered that the county's flags be lowered in Henderson's memory through the weekend.

Henerson was the last surviving charter member of American Legion Post 143 in Post Falls, which is the largest post in the state. He was named a Post Falls Veteran of the Year last year.

Friend Skip Hissong, who serves on the Post Falls City Council with Henderson's wife Betty Ann, said he's never met a person like Henderson before.

"His heart was always in the right place," Hissong said. "He was my dearest friend and I'm humbled and honored to say that. Whether it was on road trips, working in the yard or helping him pack up at his condominium in Boise during the Legislature, he was fun to be around. 

"I was always learning from him. A lot of nuggets of knowledge came out of Frank."

Jim Hammond, Coeur d'Alene's city administrator who served with Henderson in the Legislature, said Henderson introduced him into politics by appointing him to the Post Falls Planning and Zoning Commission.

"Frank was full of energy and he was always thinking of strategies to improve life for the community," Hammond said. "For someone who came to the area to retire and run a local weekly, he made quite a mark with his substantial service to our community … . Until the end, Frank was working on economic development strategies for North Idaho."

Henderson bought the former weekly Post Falls Tribune newspaper in 1976. As Post Falls’ mayor from 1979 to 1983, he was instrumental in the city, constructing its wastewater treatment system.

Henderson was one of only two mayors from Idaho who President Ronald Reagan invited to the White House to discuss programs for small cities. Later, Reagan invited him to be his guest at the landing of the Discovery space shuttle.

As a Kootenai County commissioner from 1983 to 1990, Henderson spearheaded the effort to fund and build a new county jail. He was chairman of the Panhandle Area Council from 1986 to 1991, a co-founder of Kootenai Perspectives and served as a director for Jobs Plus.

From 1993 to 2004, Henderson served in the International Executive Service Corps, helping teach governance and democracy to former Soviet-bloc countries. He completed 20 assignments in seven countries and was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from President George Bush in 2004.

In November 2004, Henderson was elected to the Idaho House. 

Henderson's economic development efforts led to the recruitment of companies such as Buck Knives, Cabela’s and Kimball Office (formerly Harper’s and Flexcel), construction of the Interstate 90 interchange near Cabela’s, Highway 95 improvements and a program which minimizes startup costs for expanding or relocating businesses.

On the environmental side, he worked on establishing North Idaho’s water adjudication program in which water rights are declared and co-sponsored a bill to protect the aquifer as the region’s drinking water source.

Serving in the Legislature, Henderson said, was his most challenging assignment.

“You have to work effectively with 104 other legislators to gain their acceptance and respect,” he said.

Henderson left a great example of how to make a difference, Hissong said.

"He affected a lot of people in a positive way," Hissong said. "Now it's time for the rest of us to take the torch and keep it going."

Freeman Duncan, legal counsel for the county when Henderson was a commissioner and who worked with Henderson on Post Falls Library projects, said he always admired Henderson's work ethic.

"He was still as sharp as a tack when he was in the Legislature," Duncan said. "I can't think of anybody other than my father who I have more respect for. He was tremendously honest, and we're going to miss him a lot."

Duncan nominated Henderson for the Idaho Hall of Fame.

"It was so neat to personally induct him rather than after his death," Duncan said.

Henderson's many awards included his efforts with Boy Scouts leadership, economic development, Post Falls Library, senior citizens, the environment and veterans groups.

“No one does anything by themselves,” he said. “It takes a community. It takes everyone working together.”

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