Cover photo for Susan Barbara Henderson's Obituary
Susan Barbara Henderson Profile Photo

Susan Barbara Henderson

February 14, 1946 — May 9, 2024


Susan Barbara Henderson, aged 78, passed away Thursday, May 9, 2024, at Hope West’s Ferris Care Center in Grand Junction of complications of Polycystic Kidney Disease. When writing to her a few days before her passing a friend of 33 years said, “some of the words that come to mind when I reminisce about you are strong, confident, brilliant, accomplished, true, sincere, funny, adventurous, powerful, can-do-anything, always the best wife and companion to Fred.”

Susan was born in Denver, Colorado, on February 14, 1946, to Ernie and Frieda Schwelka. She always said that one of the greatest gifts she received was being born on Valentine’s Day. “No one ever forgets your birthday,” she always said. Susan grew up in Denver and was educated in the Cherry Creek School District, graduating from Cherry Creek High School in 1964. She attended the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado, graduating in 1968 with a bachelor’s degree in English. Following graduation Susan married Rich Hedlund and went to work in the Denver Public Schools. Susan worked in DPS for fourteen years serving as a classroom teacher, an instructor in the DPS staff academy, and as an assistant principal at Baker Middle School. After a divorce from Rich, she acquired a scholarship from the English-Speaking Union to study theater in London, England. Later, while working on her master’s degree at CU Boulder in 1981, she met and fell in love with Fred Henderson. They later married and enjoyed a 43-year magical relationship.

She left DPS in 1982 and became affiliated with the Aurora, Colorado, public school district where she spent three years working as a Learning Coordinator at Mrachek Middle School. Following her time in Aurora, she joined the Cherry Creek Schools and worked there from1985 to 1991. She served as an assistant principal at Meadow Point Elementary School for one year and was the principal at Arrowhead Elementary School for five years. It was at Arrowhead where she found her true calling professionally.

Feeling the need to spend more time together, Susan and Fred left their administrative jobs in the Cherry Creek school district and moved to their second home in Leadville, Colorado, in 1991. There they lived a true mountain lifestyle cutting wood in the summer for heat in the winter, fishing, elk hunting, hiking, and plowing snow. It was there that she was introduced to camping, which became a life-long pursuit. They lived in Lake County for seven years until Susan’s mission as an educator drove her back to work. She had a brief stint as an adjunct instructor at Colorado Mountain College, and then as an administrator in the Lake County School District. Professionally unsatisfied, she and Fred returned to the Front Range, and she took a position as the principal of Mesa Elementary School in the Boulder Valley School District. Near the end of her tenure in Boulder, she received a one-year exchange with a principal in an elementary school in Canberra, Australia. She and Fred lived, worked, and played in Australia for the full year of 2001. While Susan ran the elementary school, Fred was the house spouse, specifically overseeing planning excursions around the country when school was not in session. Susan made many friends in Australia several of whom she remained in contact with for the rest of her life.

After returning to the USA from Australia, Susan retired in the summer of 2002. She and Fred bought an RV and for the next four years traveled full time extensively throughout North America. Getting nervous about not having roots, she convinced Fred to settle down in an active adult community in Denton, Texas, where she taught water aerobics to her fellow residents, and became a devoted yoga practitioner. Giving up RVing drove Susan and Fred to international travel. Over the next decade, she and Fred traveled to many places, including the Amazon River, Peru, Ecuador, and the Galapagos Islands in South America. Next, they took an extensive African safari that had them visiting Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Susan always longed to return to Africa for more extensive travel.

Following a decade in Texas, Colorado beckoned Susan and Fred, and they returned in 2015 building a home on Spring Creek Mesa in 2016. She wasn’t through traveling. In 2018, they took a sweeping tour of Southeast Asia visiting Hong Kong, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Susan enjoyed living in Montrose, finding the hiking and camping opportunities abundant. Following several knee surgeries, she was frustrated that she could no longer hike the beautiful trails near her home. She remained active through the Chipeta Chapter of the Colorado Archeological Society. Before she became very ill, she served as that organization's secretary. Both she and Fred were site stewards for various biological, rock art, and historical sites sponsored by the BLM and CAS. She valued the many friends she and Fred had made in Montrose.

Susan is survived by her devoted and loving husband, Fred, her two sisters, Linda Reeves of Grand Junction, Colorado, and Karen Egan of Kwethluk, Alaska, as well as her niece, Kaitonya Egan of Honolulu, Hawaii.

There will be no public services, and those who love her are encouraged to make a donation to Hope West Hospice in her name.

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