HILLJE – Firefighters gathered with family Friday morning to mourn the Louise volunteer struck by a vehicle and killed last week while trying to return to the station.
More than 400 people sat in the pews and stood in the aisles of St. Andrew’s Catholic Church as the Rev. Clement Quainoo conducted services for Steven Henderson, 60, of Louise. Still more stood outside the open doors of the church with heads bowed.
Henderson was the passenger in a fire truck driven by former Louise VFD Chief Bobby Popp the night of Monday, Oct. 7. The two were returning to the station from a trash fire call when they became concerned there was a problem with one of the vehicle’s tires.
They stopped the truck in the roadway on FM 647, got out to have a look and were struck by a pickup driven by another Louise fireman. Henderson died five days later while Popp faces a long recovery from non-life-threatening injuries.
It took crutches and a slow, faltering pace, but Popp was there at St. Andrew’s Friday morning joining his fellow Louise firefighters in mourning their lost “Chubby Buddy” as the department called Henderson.
Showing their support for Henderson and the Louise VFD Friday morning were representatives of the seven other county departments – El Campo, Danevang, Glen Flora, Wharton, Hungerford, Boling and East Bernard. Jackson County firefighters from Ganado, Edna and Jackson County ESD 3 were also present.
Former Louise Fire Chief Ben Dincans said he was pleased with the turnout, but wasn’t surprised.
“Steven was a No. 1 person in all respects. You’d have to dig deep to find fault,” he said.
Both being from the small community of Louise, they’d known each other since they were young, going to school together, working together and serving in the fire service together.
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“What do I think about when I think of Steven? Honor. There was never an occasion that he wouldn’t rise to. He would always be there. If it needed to be done, he was there.”
Henderson was laid to rest with full firefighter honors before the local crowd as well as other firefighters who had traveled the short distance from Garwood, Columbus or Sugar Land. Other trucks lining the thin streets around St. Andrew’s showed still more had driven hours to be there for Henderson.
Firefighters from McAllen were there along with others from San Antonio, San Marcos and the State Firemen and Fire Marshal’s Association in Austin.
“He was a brother. We’re all brothers,” said Kenny Plant of Jackson County ESD 3.
Two departments away from Louise and its response district, large fires and other emergencies had actually brought the two departments together before. “We knew him on a personal level,” Plant said, but adding “this (the gathering of firefighters) is a tradition in fire departments.”
Henderson worked for county residents full-time in the Wharton County’s Drainage District. He was recently promoted to foreman when previous foreman Rusty Graves was appointed as the county’s Precinct 2 commissioner.
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, was a member of SPJST Lodge No. 40, was a first degree member of Knights of Columbus Council No. 9394, past president and member of the Louise water board as well as a member of St. Procopius Catholic Church.
Henderson leaves behind a wife, son and daughter was well as a mother and three sisters.
“Today we pause and pray first for the husband, the father, the son ... the friend,” Quainoo said before telling a story of Jesus helping all those in need, regardless of their backgrounds. “And so it was with Steven. It didn’t make any difference to him who a person was or what he had done ... he was a human being and in that perspective he was able to help.”
Henderson’s helping hands started in Louise where he lived, but extended out wherever needed, Quainoo said. “The person was more important than anything.
“Bobby Popp ... We know what pain you’re going through emotionally, physically ... You were with Steven one moment talking, one moment looking at life and then one moment looking at death ... so be strong, the community is praying for you. The community is praying for Steven.
Quainoo then broke from standard funeral traditions to ask the crowd to show their appreciation with a round of applause. He got it quickly, a final thank you for Steven Henderson.
As mourners filed out of the church, Henderson’s casket was loaded onto a Louise fire truck for transport to St. Procopius Cemetery in Louise under the direction of Louise VFD Chief Tommy Johnston.
There the bell rang, a firefighter tradition where three final tolls are sounded ending the fireman’s watch, and Henderson was laid to rest.
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 account called “Stand With Steven” has been established.
Another fund to benefit Popp is in the process of being established.