There is a very small chance you’ve been in your line of work as long as Steve Henderson. Henderson, a Parkrose local, worked through Relay Resources—a local organization dedicated to placing disabled individuals in full- or part-time service jobs—over a stretch of time that saw him present for all three of the organization’s name changes: Portland Children’s Center (PCC), Portland Habilitation Center Northwest (PHC) and, since March, Relay Resources. He had been employed for what would have been 45 years this September.
In May, Henderson threw in the towel, joining his two brothers in retirement. Henderson mostly worked in Portland public schools, folding aprons in cafeterias. Socially, he was a hit with both his coworkers and his superiors.
“He was a very dedicated guy; he was one of three people who folded the aprons for that job, and he was extremely focused,” explains Henderson’s former supervisor of 11 years, Program Manager Kathy Gay. “As long as he had aprons in front of him, his service never wavered. He was neat and precise. Everybody’s asking about Steve every day and where he’s going to go.”
Living with epilepsy and partial brain damage, Henderson was the oldest of three children. Along with his two brothers, Doug and Mark, the Hendersons grew up on Northeast Thompson Street before moving to Maywood Park. In the mid-’60s, Henderson left the Parkrose public school system and transferred over to the Portland Children’s Center. For the Hendersons, PCC was a family affair.
“Our mom and dad were very active in the Portland Children’s Center,” says middle brother Doug. “My mom and dad—Richard (“Dick”) and Inez—were really strong advocates for Steve and other people with disabilities. As a family, we’re proud of it.”
Fully involved, Dick was on the board of directors at PCC. At the time of Steve’s initial enrollment, one of his father’s main focuses was sizing up the Portland Children’s Center’s original complex in Southeast. When the building was complete, Mark recalls seeing Governor Tom McCall and Senator Mark Hatfield at the opening ceremony.
Naturally, for a family so tied to this brave local institution both emotionally and historically, Steve’s transition is bittersweet.
“He’s been in PHC for more than 75 percent of his life,” explains Doug. “Some people he’s worked with have been there as long as him or longer. They’re lifelong friends whom he’ll be separated from now.”
Steve, who lives in a group home anchored by Rainbow Adult Living, is anxious over the shift, according to Doug. Still, he’s wasting no time. For Steve, staying active is key.
“He’s going to start in a program out there in the Fairview Area: the Mt. Hood Adult Day Center,” says Doug. “They offer morning and afternoon sessions, so Steve can be involved with activities and go out within the community.”
One thing both brothers concede Steve will stay on top of: knowing his ball games. His fanaticism is legendary around Parkrose.
“The Yankees are his favorite,” says Mark. “He even refers to them as ‘my New York Yankees.’ He and I like baseball a lot; Doug, not so much. Last summer, I took Steve to San Francisco to catch three Giants games.”
In the workplace, Steve also regularly vocalized his adoration for baseball.
“Most of our memories are around sports,” adds Gay. “During the sports season, he’d come in every day, and he’d tell us the scores from all the games he watched the night before. He had that knowledge, and he was always accurate.”
Mark notes that Steve’s obsession with sports is not limited to baseball. He’s also an avid proponent of hockey, once being a rabid follower of the Portland Buckaroos. Whatever Steve Henderson’s future entails, he’ll be in sturdy, loving hands. His two siblings visit him often and intend to sustain an active support system for their big brother.
“Myself, my wife and our other brother Mark visit him on a weekly basis,” says Doug, who currently lives in Gresham. “We take him on outings, but he worked longer than me and Mark. We were the lazy ones.”