Ollen Henderson, formerly of Fruitdale, Indiana, abandoned his earthly body on Sunday, December 16, 2018, and is now present with his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Born May 16, 1929 in the hills of Brown County just beyond the present-day T C Steele State Historic Site, to Alva Irwin “Ginseng” Henderson and Alice Deckard Henderson, Ollen was a sickly child who was diagnosed with Bright’s Disease, with the doctor stating he would never live to adulthood. A mischievous boy, Ollen had to be tied to his seat in the classroom at his one-room school house. Ollen was the winner of the Brown County spelling bee in his young teen years. During WWII, Ollen would steal ration coupons from his parents’ ration book to buy gasoline to get to Bloomington, where he worked for at time at Coleman’s Grill.
He moved to Columbus with his parents in the late 1940s. Working at the Olympia Dairy, he forged a lifelong friendship with Delmas Murray, newly arrived from Tompkinsville, Kentucky. They remained close in the ensuing decades, and when Delmas required emergency surgery at the Columbus Hospital during an ice storm that shut down possibilities for safe travel in both Indiana and Kentucky in the early 1960s, Ollen drove to Tompkinsville to pick up Delmas’ wife and drove her to the hospital. This act of kindness led to Delmas naming his youngest son “Ollen.”
Marrying Martha Joan Fish February 4, 1951 in Morganfield, KY, Ollen sent for his bride to join him in Orleans, France, where he was stationed with the U.S. Army. Their oldest son, Clarence Cecil, was born in France, and Ollen, his bride, and young son toured Belgium, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, and Italy during their time in Europe.
Smuggling guns from France in the door panels of the English Austin that he shipped to America from France, Ollen retained those guns throughout his life. Back in the states, he and Martha were so glad to be back in their beloved southern Indiana that they celebrated with a day of walnut hunting with their young son. Ollen, an expert marksman, aimed his ever-present gun at a walnut still clinging to a tree, causing the walnut to fall on Martha’s head, rendering her unconscious. Their young son panicked and started running, barreling straight into a barbed wire fence, cutting his neck and bleeding profusely. Ollen and Martha took the injured Clarence to the doctor and had to explain the odd series of events that led to the fiasco.
Taking advantage of the G.I. Bill, Ollen graduated from Indiana Business College. He was hired at Cummins, but a week later received a job offer from Reeves Pulley. His father, a Cummins employee, recommended that he take the job at Reeves as Cummins was prone to layoffs. Ollen remained at Reeves from 1955-1990, serving in the customer service and accounting departments. During his tenure there, he was instrumental in launching the Reliance credit union, now known as the Business and Industrial Credit Union.
Ollen gave his life to Christ at a tent revival at the First Assembly of God on Tenth Street in Columbus in 1955. He subsequently received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and reportedly laughed for hours. Ollen was baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost there, and noted that he had previously been baptized in Jesus’ name as a youth at an Apostolic Oneness church, declaring that he wanted to be sure his bases were covered.
In the ensuing years, Ollen taught Sunday School at First Assembly, and especially enjoyed taking the boys in his class on hunting expeditions.
Ollen transferred his membership to Seventh Street Church of God in the early 1960s. Over the next ten years, he served as Sunday School teacher, church clerk, Sunday School superintendent, 4-H leader and Boy Scout leader at the church. He also served as dean of the statewide Church of God youth camp.
Ollen served as the president of the McDowell Elementary School PTA in the 1960s. He and his wife served as foster parents and as respite care parents for the Children’s Home in the late 1960s.
Ollen ran a tax preparation service out of his home from 1955-1995, providing low-cost and excellent service to hundreds of clients.
Ollen returned to live in Brown County in 1969. His church memberships over the following decades were at the Villa Heights Church of God in Greenwood, at Morgantown Assembly of God, and at Unity Baptist in Brown County.
During the 1970s, Ollen forged a special friendship with three of the neighbor children, Jim, Edith, and John Merida. His mentorship of them during the decade led to lifelong friendships that he valued highly for the remainder of his life. He considered Edith an honorary daughter.
Ollen served as the president of the Deckard Cemetery Association for several decades, holding the title until his death. Operating Henderson’s Guns in Bean Blossom from 1991-2005, Ollen greatly enjoyed the gathering of friends and neighbors in the small store, which served as a central meeting place for locals and gun enthusiasts from throughout central and southern Indiana.
After the death of his wife, Martha, in 1999, he married Lillian Wentworth in 2002. She died in 2015. Ollen has maintained especially close ties with Lillian’s daughter, Joyce Thompson, who was faithful to bring food for Ollen, to check on him, and provide much support as he worked through the grieving process of losing his second wife.
Ollen remained healthy and active until January 2017, when he suffered a massive stroke. Doctors at the Veterans Administration assured the family he would be dead within 72 hours. Ollen defied the doctor’s prediction, and was able to return to his home, with assistance from children and other caregivers, especially Clover Phillips. In August of 2017 he entered an assisted living facility and was able to maintain some independence, with great help from caregiver Mary Laffoon, until March of 2018. The remainder of 2018 has been an ongoing struggle for Ollen, who was plagued by stroke-induced dementia. He lived his final months at Homeview Nursing Home in Franklin, where incredible staff members were attentive to his needs. He was especially blessed by nurse Diana on second shift and nurse aides Jamie, Amy, Amy, Brooklyn, and Jerri.
Ollen is survived by his daughter, Annabelle Lea “Ann” (Carl) Moore, of Columbus, and her children, Carl “CJ” (Sophia Eguavoen), of Dallas, Texas, and Matthew (Ebonie Lamb) Moore, of Indianapolis, and their son, Theodore Moore; his daughter, Ruth (Juan) Luna, of Taylorsville, and their children, Joshua, of Fruitdale, and Kristyna, of Columbus; his son, Rev. Allen (Deanna) Henderson, and their children, Cassie, of Indianapolis, and Renee (Joshua) Brown, of Greenwood, and their children, Gabriel and Penelope; a grandson who he raised, Paul Ollen (Tina) Henderson, of Fruitdale, and their children, Conner Ollen, Aiden, and Isabelle. He is also survived by grandchildren, Jody (David) Brockman, of Taylorsville, and her children, Nicholas, Samantha, and Emmalee; and Tamarynde (Anthony) Cacciotti, of Ithaca, New York, and their children, Leo and Lia. He is also survived by a daughter-in-law, Daphne Suria Henderson, of Manila, Philippines. He is also survived by step-children, Harry Wentworth, of Brown County, Kevin Wentworth, of Lafayette, Kimberly (Jim) Lipton, of Brownsburg, and Joyce Thompson, of Fruitdale. His sons, Clarence and Paul, preceded him in death. One grandchild, Ivan Henderson, also preceded him in death.
Ollen’s lifelong bond with his sister, Rosie Adams, was a joy and delight to him for all of his 87 years. She was by his side through the good times and bad, and was a model of excellence and faithfulness to his dying day. Ollen was predeceased by his siblings, Edna Davis, Otis, George, and Hezekiah Henderson.
Viewing will be at Meredith-Clark Funeral Home in Morgantown, Wednesday, December 19, from 4-8 p.m., and funeral will be Thursday, December 20, at 11 a.m. at the funeral home, with Rev. Allen Henderson conducting the service. Ollen will be buried at Deckard Cemetery in Brown County with military rites presented by the Brown County Honor Guard.
Memorial contributions may be made in honor of Ollen to Gideons International, P.O. Box 97251 Washington, DC 20090-7251.
Condolences to the Henderson family can be made at www.meredith-clark.com.
Date: Wednesday, December 19, 2018
Time: 4:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Date: Thursday, December 20, 2018
Time: 11:00 am