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posted: 8/4/2016 7:55 AM

2016 Gurnee Days honoree is Donald Henderson

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  • Donald Henderson

    Donald Henderson

Gurnee Days Corporation submission

A man with a long history of community contributions will be feted during the 44th Gurnee Days festival.

Festival honoree Don Henderson will be in the spotlight starting with the testimonial dinner, Thursday, Aug. 11, and he will serve as grand marshal of the parade on Old Grand Avenue on Sunday, Aug. 14.

Gurnee Days Corporation officials selected Henderson from a pool of nominees. Each year, a deserving individual or couple receives the honor for meaningful community contributions or generally making the area a better place and live and work.

Organizers said the community has been strengthened by Henderson's vision, dedication and commitment.

"Mr. Henderson is truly an unsung hero for Gurnee. He sees a need in the community and quietly without any fanfare takes care of it or fixes it. He has had an incredible impact on the quality of life in our area and most people are not aware of his immense contributions. Mr. Henderson epitomes what makes Gurnee great -- a servant's heart," said Mayor Kristina Kovari.

Henderson said he was surprised by the honor. "It was very nice."

A lifelong Lake County resident, Henderson moved to Gurnee in 1952 and later took over his father's construction business, J.J. Henderson & Son. During his construction career, which ended when he retired in 1994, the company built many landmarks including the fire station on Old Grand Avenue and the village hall on O'Plaine Road.

But brick and mortar weren't the only ways Henderson left his mark on Gurnee.

He was a member of several business organizations, including serving as president of the Lake County Contractors Association.

He was a charter member of Bethel Lutheran Church and served as chairman of the building committee and oversaw construction of the original building at Grand and Fuller. Henderson also participated in many outreach missions with Bethel and with Village Church of Gurnee, where he and his wife, Judy, now worship.

"Mr. Henderson has worshipped at this church for many years and is described as a kindhearted man in a very unassuming way. Always smiling and willing to help with anything without calling attention to himself is the best way to describe him," Village Church of Gurnee Pastor Brandon Smith said.

Gurnee Days Corporation officials said Henderson helped fund some public safety and technology needs at the Gurnee fire and police departments. He has contributed time and materials to Warren-Newport Public Library, including to build and later remodel the circulation desk. Henderson also helped create the Gurnee Teacher of the Year program to honor teachers in the three school districts that serve the village, officials said.

He established the Henderson Foundation, which provides annual nursing scholarships at the College of Lake County and Rush University, and supports many local public and private community-based organizations.

Henderson said he enjoys giving back to the Gurnee community and Lake County.

"I've lived here all my life," he said. "I'm retired now. I just like to do a little bit to help out as much as I can."