June 18, 2015 at 12:33 p.m.

Retired from Navy service, Grand Marshal found other ways to serve

Retired from Navy service, Grand Marshal found other ways to serve
Retired from Navy service, Grand Marshal found other ways to serve

When you stand alongside the MidSummer parade route this Sunday in North Branch, and Paul Henderson rides past in the lead car as parade Grand Marshal,  what you’ll see is a Korean Conflict veteran, who served his country, and chose to keep serving even though he was no longer in uniform.   

Try to envision Henderson as the young seaman, confronted with early military electronics;  criss-crossing the Pacific first aboard supply boats, then destroyers and ultimately being entrusted to train submarine personnel.  

When you wave at Henderson along the parade route try to picture him carving out an 18 year civilian career with electronics giant Control Data, and still finding time to be active in his community.

You won’t be able to see what Henderson has done over decades and the lives he’s touched as he rides-by in the parade, but you might detect Henderson’s can-do spirit. Quite ill now with mesothelioma; when the North Branch Legion Post chaplain asked him if he’d accept the honor of being Grand Marshal Henderson said sure-- if he lives long enough. 
 
Henderson says his cancer care, recently shifted to  Fairview in Wyoming, has been every bit as good as can be expected. He notes one of his daughters,  a longtime employee with the Veterans Administration,  knows the ropes and has been a big help navigating the system. He adds that he misses playing golf and had a T.V. channel tuned to a tournament on the bigscreen when we stopped by.

Then, Henderson steers the interview in a different direction.   

He brightens telling of how he met his wife driving with a buddy of his,  and picking up two girls hitchhiking in El Segundo, California. He and Mary wed just months later and have been together for 62 years.    Henderson, born in Michigan, spent his formative years in New York state,  and followed Mary back to Minnesota eventually, settling on her family’s farm, near Kost Dam County Park.    They brought up three girls and a boy.  They may have an original Chisago Lakes 257 exchange on their phone number,  but they adopted the North Branch community for their hometown.

Henderson spent many nights at meetings of the North Branch School Board on which he served for five years. He also could be found, with fellow North Branch area vets, every November 10 changing out the U.S. flag at the old North Branch Primary School.  

He and Mary recall good times owning and operating Paul’s Pub, in Almelund for a couple years until somebody made them an offer they couldn’t refuse, so they sold.

Paul also managed the North Branch Legion Post club for a time,  and Mary and Paul also worked at The Oak Inn, where he was usually behind the bar and she sold pulltabs.   

North Branch MidSummer Days are  now underway.  

June 21 Fathers’ Day the parade starts at 2 p.m. and the route follows Hwy 95 from Grand Avenue (County Road 14) west.

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