Lyndell (Lynne) Udell Dickerson was born and grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana, the oldest of four children of Blondell Jane and William Oscar Dickerson.
When she was nine years old, as she would later tell family members, she answered the altar call of Pastor Walter King and took Jesus as her savior. She recalled her youthful pain during the next ten years at being the only one in her family who felt about Jesus the way she did. Yet she never wavered in her love of Him. She nurtured that relationship her whole life and described the many ways that it sustained her.
Lynne graduated on the honor roll from George Washington High School and attended Indiana University on a full scholarship. But following her third semester, she returned home to help her parents, taking a job as a stenographer at Sears, Roebuck and Co. Lynne worked as a secretary for much of her life.She found great satisfaction in her work and developed long-lasting friendships with her co-workers.
Eleven days before Pearl Harbor, on November 26, 1941, Lynne met Robert Glenn Henderson, a sailor stationed in Indianapolis. On their second date, while sitting in a movie theater, Bob asked Lynne to marry him. Ten days later, they were married at Lynne’s parents’ home with Pastor King (“Brother King”) officiating.
The first four years of their marriage coincided with World War II. Lynne lived with her parents and worked as a secretary while Bob was at sea for months at a time. Their first two children, Sulinda Jane and Cynthia Ann, were born during this time. After the war, Lynne and Bob continued living in Indiana and welcomed three more daughters: Dorothy Jo, Barbara Gay, and Antonia Rae. In 1954, the family moved to Arizona, and three years later to California, where their last child, son Patrick Jay, was born. Lynne and Bob eventually made their home in Pasadena.
Lynne took great pride and joy in her family. She referred to her family as her crown, with each of her descendants a jewel in that crown. Every Christmas Eve until she was in her last few years, Lynne gathered her children, then her grandchildren, eventually her great grandchildren and, before she passed away at age 98, her great-great grandchildren, around her and read the story of Jesus’s birth from the gospel of Luke. It was the last thing read before the children went to bed. She always ended the passage with the words “But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
Throughout her life, Lynne corresponded with her family, now totaling 93 (73 of whom were direct descendants). She never missed acknowledging birthdays, all of which she knew by heart. Her own birthdays were an opportunity for family and friends to acknowledge her. More than 100 people attended her 95th birthday celebration, most of them family members who traveled from around the country to be with her.
After Lynne and Bob retired, they moved to Atascadero in 2000 to be close to their daughters Sue and Toni. Lynne’s unwavering trust in Jesus began to manifest more fully as a strong commitment to peace and social justice as part of her faith. Lynne chose to begin attending a Quaker worship group with Sue.
In 2003, Lynne and Bob moved to Nevada City, California, to live with their daughter Dorothy and her husband, Doug, at Sierra Friends Center, a Quaker retreat and home of the Woolman Semester School and Camp Woolman. Bob passed away in 2005.
An active Episcopalian for most of her life, she spent her final eighteen years deeply grounded in her Quaker faith. At the age of 90, Lynne became a member of the Religious Society of Friends, first as a member of Grass Valley Friends Meeting and then as a member of Central Coast Friends Meeting.
Lynne was a steady attender at Grass Valley Friends Meeting from the time she moved to the area. Early on she enjoyed Quarterly and Yearly Meetings and traveled to Friends General Conference in both Tacoma and Greeley, Colorado. She developed a friendship with Mary Jorgensen; both were Hoosiers from Indiana, both had lost their husbands. Whoever arrived first in meeting would “save” a place for the other next to her. When they both began using canes, they would slide their canes together under the bench. Once Mary leaned over to Lynne and whispered, “Our canes are kissing under the bench, Lynne.”
During her ten years in residence at Sierra Friends Center, from age 81 to 91, Lynne was truly the matriarch of Woolman. She came to know every staff member, student and intern, bestowing her smile and unfailing gift of presence on each. She had a front row seat at every Woolman graduation, dressed up for the Halloween parties, participated in the Thanksgiving feast preparations and celebrations, and became famous for her special dessert, an unusual baked concoction of chocolate, caramel and soda crackers that she dubbed the Woolman Pine Bark.
Lynne attended all of the Woolman Semester student presentations and was a lifelong learner. Her commitment to social justice, peace and earth care translated into her embracing, at age 90, significant changes in some long-held behaviors. One example: she loved chocolate and indulged daily without hesitation or guilt. After hearing a Woolman student presentation describe how cocoa was harvested by children, she announced to friends and family that she would only eat fair trade chocolate from then on.
Lynne’s growing commitment to her Quaker values led to her becoming a major Woolman donor and providing scholarships for her great-grandchildren to attend Camp Woolman. She remained actively tuned into the happenings at Woolman until just a few days before her death. In her later years she once stated, “Woolman is where I lost Bob and found myself.”
In 2013, she returned to Atascadero and transferred her membership to Central Coast Friends Meeting.
An informed and dedicated voter, Lynne kept a copy of a full-page newspaper photo of Barack Obama after he won the 2008 election. In her later years, she became a more outspoken activist and feminist. In 2016, she walked out of the room in disgust when she realized that Hillary Clinton had lost the election. Two months later, in her signature red hat and coat, she marched with her walker in the January 2017 Women’s March. This past June, she donned a face mask and walked in a Black Lives Matter march in Atascadero.
In her final years, Lynne was an example to all who knew her of how to age gracefully. She was an avid reader, a competitive bridge and Scrabble player, and a dessert connoisseur. She loved music and was soothed in her last days by the songs of Kris Kristofferson and Frank Sinatra. She asked that the gospel song “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” be played at her memorial.
Ten days before her death, Lynne announced she was ready to go and that she wanted her children to be with her when she died. Her five remaining children (daughter Barbara had preceded her in death) and numerous grandchildren arrived over the next ten days to visit and care for her. In addition to visits, she received more than a hundred emails from family and friends. Up until her final two days, Lynne responded to each one, with the assistance of a granddaughter.
Anyone who met Lynne was blessed with her extraordinary care and attention. Perhaps because as a young person she was shy and had a stutter, she grew up an astute listener. She was more likely to ask you about your life than to tell you about hers, and her phenomenal memory meant that she could recount details of stories told decades ago.
At Central Coast Friends Meeting, an armchair was regularly placed in a corner of the gathering for Lynne, whether or not she was able to attend. On First Days when she was present, speakers would move to stand beside her chair to ensure that she could easily hear the sharing. These simple practices were symbolic of Friends' deep respect for her.
When next we are able to meet, that chair will likely be set out as a reminder of Lynne, a lady of grace, charm, intellect and heart.
Note: In July 2019, Lynne was interviewed for Western Friend. The topic was “On Quakers and Faith.” You can watch a 16-minute video of her interview at https://archive.org/details/lynne-henderson-on-quakers and-faith.