Bainbridge native Michael Alan Henderson, 63, passed away at his Seattle home on Dec. 21, 2021, from injuries sustained in a fall.
Mike (or Mikey) was born May 5, 1958 to Percy F. and Eleanora Henderson. He spent his first few years in Seabold, but most of his childhood in Fort Ward. At the time, Fort Ward was very rural, said his sister, Susan Neese. The siblings would ride their bikes through the forest and down to the beach.
“It was kind of an idyllic childhood,” Neese said.
Henderson was artistic as a child and was a good baseball player, Neese said. He attended the old McDonald School in Eagledale, as well as Blakely, Commodore, Bainbridge High School and Strawberry Hill Alternative School with the Class of 1976.
As an adult, Henderson worked various jobs in construction and in the fishing industry. He worked in a salmon farm in production and moved to Alaska to work in fish processing. Eventually, Henderson found his niche as a vendor for Real Change, becoming one of the newspaper’s most dedicated salespeople. Bainbridge friends would often spot him selling papers on the corner of Denny and Aurora in Seattle and stop to say hello.
Thousands of cars would pass through Denny and Aurora, necessitating quick interactions with customers. But Henderson would work six and eight hour days, and became a member of Real Change’s 600 club, named for the number of papers sold.
“I work really hard and wish that would speak for itself. I don’t talk to that many people because by the time they decide that I’m safe and have rolled down the window and I give a paper to them, the light turns green and they speed off. I talk some, but I don’t even know if I’m understood,” Henderson told volunteer writer Mike Wold in a vendor profile in August 2013.
When he first got involved with Real Change, Henderson was sleeping rough under the bridge at Sixth Avenue and Columbia. He had a friend who was selling Real Change and told him that it was pretty easy to sign up, he told former Real Change staff member Bridget Mountain in 2019.
Selling Real Change was a different experience from panhandling, Henderson told her.
“People would look at you differently [when selling Real Change] because at least you were doing things differently,” Henderson said.
Henderson never gave up, something Neese admired about him.
“He had a lot of struggles these past few years,” Neese said. Henderson had kidney cancer and a stroke, but kept going back to selling Real Change.
“He didn’t give up, he kept going back to selling the Real Change,” Neese said. “He was really proud of that, and I don’t know if he knew how proud we were.”
Henderson’s survivors include two sisters, Neese of Port Angeles and Victoria Farnsworth of Enoch, Utah, as well as a brother, David Henderson of Tucson, Arizona, and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews. Henderson was preceded in death by his parents and three brothers: Percy G. Henderson, Warren Van Pelt, and Jerry Van Pelt.
A celebration of life will be held in the spring when the weather is better suited for gathering outdoors.
Read more of the Feb. 2-8, 2022 issue.