by Marcia Napier, Grain Valley Historical Society
After spending some time going thru old newspaper articles from twenty-five years ago, I continued to find stories about one woman and her impact on Grain Valley.
Twenty-five years ago, at the age of 85, Veatrice Henson was chosen by the Grain Valley Chamber of Commerce as “Volunteer of the Year.” For eight years, beginning in 1988, Mrs. Henson spent her Wednesdays as a volunteer at the Community Service League’s (now Grain Valley Assistance Council) food and clothing shelter.
Her nomination included these words, “Rain or shine she does whatever is needed to be done. She’s the corresponding secretary, writing thank you notes to doners, and works in the pantry to fill food orders for clients.”
She received the honor again in 2008.
Before moving to Grain Valley, Mrs. Henson spent her life in Springfield where she was born, married and raised her two children. She and her husband followed their children here in 1986.
But the newspaper stories didn’t end at age 85 or with being named Volunteer of the Year. There was the story of her first airplane ride, an Angel flight used for humanitarian missions, when she was 87 years-old. There was a 90th birthday celebration. In 2005 (age 94) she was Grand Marshall of Valley Fair Days.
The Grain Valley Board of Aldermen declared May 10, 2010 as Veatrice Henson Day. It was just after her 99th birthday.
For her 100th birthday, she received world wide attention when she was chosen for Sprint’s All Together Now ad campaign. She became known as the Sprint Lady and received Happy Birthday messages from hundreds of thousands of people around the world via emails, text and voicemail messages.
She received the “Royal” treatment with a limousine ride to Kauffman Stadium, seats in the Royal Crown section and was seen several times of the Kauffman Stadium jumbotron screen. The night’s highlight was when the entire stadium sang Happy Birthday to her.
Mrs. Henson continued to volunteer with the Grain Valley Assistance Council until May, 2017. Her life journey ended peacefully on August 29, 2017. She was 106 years-old.