A Louise volunteer firefighter died Saturday almost a week after being hit by a pickup on FM 647 while returning to the station.
Now, the small community prepares to honor and mourn the man who served his community through his church and the chamber of commerce and the county as a whole as the Wharton County Drainage District foreman, all that before he donned the turnout gear of a firefighter.
Sixty-year-old Steven Henderson leaves behind a wife, son and daughter as well as a mother and three sisters.
He will be buried with the full firefighter honors of a man killed in the line of duty during a funeral mass starting at 10 a.m. Friday, Oct. 18 at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in Hillje with the Rev. Clement Quainoo officiating. Burial will follow at St. Procopius Cemetery in Louise.
For more on services, please see area funeral notices on Page 7-A.
“Steven was the kind of man who would give you the shirt off his back on any given day,” Louise LVFD Chief Tommy Johnston said standing outside the department’s fire station Sunday.
It was the department’s annual chicken fried steak dinner, an event Henderson helped create and maintain to raise funds for the department.
Sunday, El Campo and Ganado firefighting volunteers were out in force too, assisting with anything they could.
“We’ve had a lot of help,” Johnston said, adding, “This has been a very hard tragedy for Louise.”
El Campo VFD will be there for the funeral too, Chief Jimmy George Jr. said Monday. “Whatever’s needed we’ll do the best we can to help,” he said.
Henderson served in the Louise department 13 years, previously as its president and pension board president. He was honored as its firefighter of the year in 1994 and 2002.
He was named the Louise-Hillje Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year in 2008.
“He was the guy who would call me (while out on a scene) and ask what we needed (bringing it quickly),” Johnston said. “But what what’s going on today? (the Sunday fundraiser) Steven was the backbone of it.”
Beloved by members of the department, they affectionately called him their “Chubby Buddy.” That name, Johnston said, will now be placed on the side of the rescue truck, as a remembrance of the man who got out of a fire truck to check a tire, and wound up giving his life for it.
Johnston, the department’s chief for the last five years, said he simply couldn’t pick out a favorite memory of Henderson.
“There are so many, it’s hard to pick out one,” he said. “In the fire department, we all looked to Steven as an older brother.”
Louise firefighter Bobby Popp was also injured in the Oct. 7 accident. Still recovering from his injuries, he was at the fundraiser to do what he could to help.
So was firefighter John Roades. He was the man in the pickup which struck Henderson and Popp. Roades had worked the same trash fire as the two of them, but had already returned to the station, gotten in his personal vehicle and headed back out.
The Department of Public Safety is still in the process of its investigation of what happened when the fire truck stopped in the middle of FM 647. Although the report hasn’t been finalized, intoxication has been ruled out and no charges or citations have been issued, according to DPS Sgt. Stephen Woodard, the spokesman for the area.
The department, Johnston said, offers both men their support and has called upon religious leaders in their community of offer counseling where needed.
The family asks that memorial donations be made to the Louise Volunteer Fire Department or St. Procopius Catholic Church.
A medical relief fund has been established at First State Bank of Louise. Those wanting to make donations can visit or contact any branch and say they want to make a donation to the Steven Henderson Medical Fund.
A Go Fund Me called “Stand With Steven” has been established
Another fund to benefit Popp is in the process of being established.