Bob Henry was a teacher whose influence on students lasted decades past their school days. If one alumnus has his way, the Everett High School Little Theater will be renamed in Henry’s honor.
“He provided a groundwork of creativity that lasted all our lives,” said Lois Foraker, a member of Everett High’s class of 1964 who went on to act in movies and TV productions. “He was larger than life.”
Robert E. Henry, an Everett High drama teacher from 1958 to 1979, died July 17. He was 92.
In 2003, the year of their 30th reunion, some members of Everett High’s class of 1973 organized an all-class reunion of Henry’s drama students. They coaxed their beloved teacher, who was 55 when he retired from Everett High, to come back to the Little Theater for the evening. That was the start of Everett’s Reunion Theatre Group. As a director, Henry and his former students put on local plays for years.
Steve Ward, a member of the class of 1973, recalls that magic reunion. “It was fantastic. It filled the Everett High Little Theater with Bob’s former students going back to the late 1950s,” said Ward, now program director at KSER, Everett’s independent public radio station.
Today, the Reunion Theatre Group remains a nonprofit, although a few years back it lost its theater space. Henry was 85 when he retired from directing the reunion players after a 2009 performance, “Exit Laughing.”
While teaching at Everett High, Henry directed 39 full-length shows. “The kids loved it,” Henry told The Herald in 2010. “We were kids together.”
Ward remembers Henry helping students overcome stage fright. “One thing he said to me was, ‘Have fun with it.’ That kind of threw a little switch in my head,” Ward said. “I thought, wait a minute, this is a place where we can really be ourselves. He was a very inspirational guy.”
It’s Ward who would like to see Everett High recognize Henry by renaming its theater, which was once a Lutheran church. “It would be great if it could be the Bob Henry Little Theater,” said Ward, noting that Everett High honored Norm Lowery by naming its gym for the longtime basketball coach.
Henry is survived by his wife of 70 years, June Henry, and by three children, sons Chad and Garth Henry and daughter Marc Roberts. He also leaves granddaughters Moira Roberts and Paige Henry.
June Henry said that after retiring from the high school, her husband landed small parts in movies, including “The Fabulous Baker Boys” in 1989 and the 1990 Shirley MacLaine film “Waiting for the Light.” He appeared in commercials and modeled for print ads.
“He could do either comedy or drama,” said June Henry, who lives in the Everett area home the couple shared for decades. “He was a very strong personality, and also a very loving father and husband,” she said.
A graduate of the University of Washington, Bob Henry grew up in Spokane and taught English in Montana and Blaine before coming to Everett.
Their oldest child followed in his father’s footsteps. A 1964 classmate of Foraker’s at Everett High, Chad Henry co-wrote the long-running play “Angry Housewives.” Today he works in the literary department of the Denver Center Theatre Company.
Chad Henry recalls appearing with other family members in a play his dad directed with the Edmonds Driftwood Players. From early childhood, he remembers his father on stage with a British Columbia theater company. “He was quite a commanding presence,” he said.
His father also loved playing piano and singing. At home, friends and family would gather around the piano and sing show tunes, Chad Henry said.
Victoria Walker, now editor of the Prosser Record-Bulletin newspaper in eastern Washington, met Henry when she worked with longtime Everett Community College theater director Arden Flom. Walker was later executive director of the Historic Everett Theatre, where in 2003 she acted with Henry in “Lysistrata.”
“He always treated people with respect,” Walker said. “So many people are appreciative of him. He made a difference. He lived a full life.”
Anita Williams Christian, another 1973 Everett High graduate, described Henry’s teaching style as “a combination cheerleader and drill sergeant.”
“He always challenged you to do your best and pushed you to do ever better,” said Christian, who now lives in Ozark, Missouri. She organized the 2003 drama-student reunion at Everett High, and stayed in touch with Henry through the years. “He was a great example of how to live life into your mature years. Bob was still doing yoga and chopping wood at 90,” she said.
Foraker left Everett for California after high school. Now back in her hometown, she credits Henry for being the spark that ignited her acting career. Her film credits include “Dirty Harry,” “Gremlins” and “The Exorcist III.” On TV, she appeared in “St. Elsewhere,” “Northern Exposure,” “3rd Rock from the Sun” and many other programs.
“In every student’s life, hopefully there is a teacher or mentor like Bob Henry — someone so special and so instrumental they begin to bridge a pathway to adulthood,” Foraker said.
Bob Henry’s family has not yet set a date for an informal memorial gathering.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; email@example.com.