Sandra, Wife, Mother, Grandmother, Great-Grandmother, Teacher, Judge, Singer, Trivia Aficionado, Creativity Chair, Chocolate Lover, and World Traveler who always managed to come back to her Memphis native.
Sandra was born on February 5, 1934 in Memphis, Tennessee, to Wallace Gillespie Ellis and Ruth Bowe Ellis. She was the third of seven children.
Sandra is a graduate of Capleville Elementary School and Whitehaven High School where she was a class officer. She earned a BA from Southwestern at Memphis (now Rhodes College) where she sang in the Southwestern Singers and was a member of the Delta Delta Delta Sorority. During her summers, she worked as a ranger at Audubon Park in Memphis. She also earned a master’s degree from the University of Memphis.
After graduating from college, she married Jimmy and began her long career in education. She enjoyed working with students at all levels and taught dozens of children to read in Knoxville, Cincinnati and St. Louis, where her husband graduated.
Upon her return to Memphis, Sandra accepted a fifth-grade social studies position at Hutchison. Her fifth-grade students fondly remember crowning her Miss Bicentennial in 1976 in a play she produced. She was named the first president of the Ruthie and Bliss Bowlin Endowment for Creativity at Hutchison in 1996. Sandra also served as director of the Learning Center. She retired from Hutchison in 2000 after 23 years.
A true educator, one of her many accomplishments was bringing Odyssey of the Mind to Tennessee. She has led her teams to numerous regional, state and world championships and served as the state director of Odyssey of the Mind for many years. Knowing how transformative such activities can be, she has also been active in the groups Future Problem Solving and Destination Imagination. She has also served as a judge and captain of issues at the local, state and international levels.
A devout United Methodist, Sandra began teaching Sunday School at the age of 16. She was active in United Methodist congregations wherever she lived. She sang in the choir and headed the stewardship program. She and Jimmy joined Emmanuel United Methodist Church (EUMC) in the early 70s when they moved back to Memphis. There she sang in the choir, served as president of the Ida Virginia Circle, president of United Methodist Women, and served as WUSC’s lay leader.
Sandra was an avid bridge player, crossword puzzler, NPR listener, line dancer, reader, Red Hat Club member, and president of the Kirby Woods Garden Club. She was also the only one we knew who learned to program her VCR. She recorded her favorite shows from the Masterpiece Theater to exercise classes to soap operas. Later, she created mixes of children’s television tapes for her grandchildren.
Drawing on her background on her high school’s Quiz ‘Em on the Air team, Sandra was an excellent quiz player. Jeopardy was the daily must-see TV accompanied by the Knowledge Bowl on Saturday mornings. On cruises, fellow travelers quickly recognized his trivia prowess and lobbied to join his team. She always welcomed them.
Sandra’s spirit was world famous. Recalling a trip to Cuba as a young girl, she joked that she hadn’t seen any pigs in the Bay of Pigs. She found a willing accomplice for her pun and travels in her husband. Sandra and Jimmy loved to travel, whether by plane, train or automobile. They particularly enjoyed the boats, completing 42 cruises, including an epic round-the-world excursion. During their 67 years together, they have visited all 50 states and 87 countries. They visited every continent except Antarctica, but always returned home to Memphis.
What was her secret to their long and happy marriage? Love, laugh and don’t take anything too seriously.
She was always up for any game. In the late 70s, her doctor asked her how she had injured her leg. She shyly admitted that she had sprained herself when she slipped on the pole at the Memphis Fire Museum while playing with her grandchildren.
Sandra, mom, grandma, grandmudder, GanGan, GGM, GiGi, saw the good in everyone. We always wanted to be the person she saw us to be.
The philosophy of his life is found in Micah 6:8: to live the love of God through our actions. “Do justice. Live humbly. Walk humbly with the Lord.”
Sandra passed away peacefully on February 23, 2022, at the age of 88. She will be sadly missed by her husband of 67 years, James C. “Jimmy” Henson of Memphis; her three children, Bryan Henson of Naples, Florida; Blair Henson of Niceville, Florida; and Beth Henson Tudan (Costi) of Vienna, Virginia; six grandchildren, Lee Henson, Clay Henson, Ashley Stewart, Paul Tudan, Alexander Tudan and Thomas Tudan; two great-grandchildren, Nolan Henson and Brianna Henson; his siblings: Mary Martha Arter, Dr. Bill Ellis (Harriet), Gwyn Fields (Jim), Nat Ellis (Pat) and Morgan Caer-Myrddin, as well as many other family members and friends. She is predeceased by her grandson Kohl Henson, her daughter-in-law Tappy Schilling, her sister, Dr. Helen Bridger Ellis, and her brothers-in-law, Dr. Milt Arter and Steve Taylor.
Services will be held at Emmanuel United Methodist Church in Memphis, Tennessee on Thursday, March 3 at noon, followed by a reception. The service will also be broadcast live. Interment will be at Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis, Tennessee on Thursday, March 3 at 10 a.m.
Published by The Daily Memphian on March 1, 2022.