Harold Lester Henderson, 68, a master welder, a lifelong Germantown resident known as “Big Harold,” and the father of celebrity fashion stylist H. Anthony Henderson-Strong died Wednesday, Jan. 12, of a heart attack in his neighborhood.
mr. Henderson attended Germantown High School before enlisting in the Navy in 1974. He served aboard the USS America and was stationed in Pensacola, Fla. In the military, he became a welder — a skill that would carry him a long way throughout his life. After being honorably discharged, he worked as a master welder at the Navy Yard in South Philly building aircraft.
He left when he became discouraged after witnessing discriminatory promotion practices that favored white people over African Americans and began working for the US Mint as a coin inspector. eventually mr. Henderson started an eponymous general contracting business with a friend. Over the years, he did it all — electrical work, plumbing, carpentry, and residential and office renovation.
He survived a two-story fall from scaffolding outside his home and had a metal plate put in his head and rods in one arm. mr. Henderson retired a few years ago but continued to do projects for longtime customers as well as friends and relatives.
mr. Henderson was born Feb. 9, 1953, to James Henderson, a State Store employee among other professions, and Priscilla Henderson, who held jobs at Ray Funeral Home and Episcopal Hospital, and was the fourth of eight children.
While still in his early twenties, Mr. Henderson purchased a shoe repair shop around the corner from his parents’ former home on Devon Street. He converted what had been retail space into a billiards room and renovated the rest of the property into a comfortable home where he raised a family and resided until his death.
mr. Henderson loved his relatives more than anything and stayed close to his remaining five siblings, who all reside within walking distance of his house. He wanted to be close by if family needed his help. He was fond of saying, “The Bible says let your light shine before all men so they can see your good works,” and lived his life accordingly.
A huge Eagles fan, Mr. Henderson watched every game. He rarely missed 6ABC’s Action News at night. His favorite time of year was Christmas, when he would decorate his home and cook hearty soul food meals for his family. His last holiday was a special one during which he took his grandsons to the Salvation Army to impress upon them the importance of giving back and donating to charity.
“He always believed in giving,” said his son, H. Anthony Henderson-Strong, a celebrity fashion stylist based in Atlanta. “I always used to say he did that to make up for not going to church all the time. But he was definitely God-fearing.
“He told me no matter who you are or what you become, always be the best at it. If you’re going to sweep up trash be the best trash sweeper there is. He left a great legacy.”
In addition to Henderson-Strong, he is survived by a daughter, Lisa Wilks; a son, Thomas; three grandchildren, Marcelino Henderson-Strong, Jae’Den Henderson-Strong, and Jaylah Renee Henderson-Strong; two sisters; four brothers; and other relatives.
Funeral services are scheduled for 10 am Saturday, Jan. 22, at Golden Star Baptist Church, 1635 N. 27th Street, Philadelphia.
Donations can be made in his memory to Toys for Tots.