Jerome Francis Henry, 82, died Sunday, November 23, 2008 at the family homestead, surrounded by his wife and children. He was a dedicated and gifted social worker who served as a champion of the poor, an advocate for the mentally disabled, and a voice for the imprisoned.

He truly lived the words of Jesus in Matthew, Chapter 25: “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me.” He also was a passionate community activist. He served as an advisor to politicians, was a friend of organized labor, and was a strong supporter of vibrant neighborhoods. His biggest impressions, however, may have been left on those less fortunate whom he befriended and counseled all his life.

He was a faithful and adoring husband and a dedicated father who was immensely proud of his children and grandchildren. He took great joy in mentoring his sons and daughters, and though we knew this day eventually would come, our hearts are heavy at the loss of our gentle giant. He left an indelible imprint on those who knew him. And though he had hoped to accomplish more, through his public service, he left this world a better place.

Jerry Henry was born in Fort Wayne on January 19, 1926. He attended Most Precious Blood Catholic Grade School and Central Catholic High School, where he served as President of the Senior Class, 1944. Following an honorable discharge from the United States Navy, he attended St. Joseph College in Rensselaer, Indiana and Indiana Institute of Technology (Fort Wayne). He graduated from Indiana University in Bloomington with Bachelor’s Degrees in psychology and economics and a Master’s Degree in social work.

He married Marganelle Ruth Applegate on August 20, 1949 at St. Jude Catholic Church, Fort Wayne. Together they had eleven sons and six daughters. He began his career in social work in 1952 at the Jackson Family Counseling Center in Jackson, Michigan. In 1955, he accepted a position at the neuro-psychiatric clinic at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. In 1956, he returned to Fort Wayne to serve as the director of social services at the Indiana State Hospital (now known as the State Developmental Center). In 1966, he was appointed by then-Indiana Gov. Roger Branigin to serve as superintendent of the Indiana State Reformatory in Pendleton, Indiana. During his time at the reformatory, he was nationally recognized for developing the state’s first work release program. Many of his innovative practices in the field of corrections are used to this day. In 1968, he returned to Fort Wayne to serve as executive director of Catholic Social Services, a division of Catholic Charities. During his tenure, at CSS, he was instrumental in developing one of the state’s most successful adoption programs. Also during that time, he helped implement among the first local community-outreach programs to help laid-off factory workers retrain for new jobs.

He also was involved in the early development of such worthwhile programs as Big Brother/Big Sisters, Matthew 25, the East Wayne Street Center and Park Center (formerly the Mental Health Center). He retired from Catholic Charities in 1991. Throughout his career, he served on several boards including the Fort Wayne Housing Authority, Big Brother/Big Sisters, the National Catholic Conference Planning Committee, The United Way of Allen County, the East Wayne Street Center, Family Services of Indiana, the Governor’s Regional Correctional Development Committee, Indiana Catholic Conference Legislation Committee, National Association of Social Workers, Indiana Conference of Social Welfare, University of St. Francis School of Social Work Advisory Committee, Indiana University School of Social Work Advisory Committee, Allen County Juvenile Court Foster Care and Mentor Program, the St. Joseph Hospital Burn Unit, Nebraska School PTA President, Nebraska Neighborhood Association President, and the Christian Community Neighborhood Committee.

He was active in local politics and entered several races for elective office including Fort Wayne City Council, Indiana State Representative and Wayne Township Trustee. After his retirement, he was elected to a seat on the Fort Wayne Community School Board of Trustees.

He received many awards throughout his career, but he was most proud of the Sagamore of the Wabash, presented by then-Indiana Governor Evan Bayh; the Liberty Bell Award (Allen County Bar Assoc.); Indiana Social Worker of the Year; the Adler Institute Award for Community Service; and the Governor’s Public Service Award for his work with the disabled. He remained active in many facets of the local community until he suffered a debilitating stroke in May of this year.

We would like to express our gratitude to all those who cared for Dad in his last days including St. Joseph Hospital, St. Anne Home, Parkview Home Health and Hospice and Angel Corps.
He is survived by his beloved wife of 59 years, Marganelle; sons, Jerome Jr. (Rebecca), Thomas (Cindy), Anthony (Susan), Matthew (Anne), Martin (Vicki), Kurt, Karl, Louis (Brenda), and Christopher (Carolyn) Henry, all of Fort Wayne; and Erik (Mary Kay) of Knoxville, Tenn. Also surviving are daughters, Paula (William) Bentley, Andrea (Ramon) Navarro, Sonya (John) Witte and Jessica, all of Fort Wayne; Denise (William) Wenzel of Baraboo, Wis., and Lisa (Mark) Canada of Kannapolis, NC. He had 51 grandchildren and 36 great-grandchildren. Also surviving are brothers, Charles Jr. of Fort Wayne, Eugene of Cocoa Beach Florida, and Morton of Port Orange, Florida; and sister, Carol Venderley of Fort Wayne.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Charles M. Sr. and Irene (Degitz) Henry; son, Timothy; and grandson, Paul Navarro.

Mass of Christian Burial with Bishop John M. D’Arcy officiating, is 11 a.m. Saturday at Most Precious Blood Catholic Church, 1515 Barthold Street, with visitation two hours prior to service. Visitation is also from 2 to 9 p.m. Friday with vigil at 7:30 p.m. at Mungovan & Sons Memorial Chapel, 2114 S. Calhoun Street. Burial in Catholic Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to The Jerome and Marganelle Henry Foundation, which provides healthcare to the working poor, or to Most Precious Blood Catholic Church.

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