For many of us, we are at the age when calls come much too often with news of the departure of a friend.
Sports Scene, LYLE CARTER
Learning that Don (Turk) Henderson, 76, had died March 13 at San Javier Hospital in Guadalajara, Mexico, was met with disbelief and sadness. The Brookfield native died from a severe head injury after being struck by a big wave at Ixtapa Beach.
Henderson and his partner Leslie Harvey lived in Calgary during the winter and at Brule Point in the summer.
Looking up to Henderson, for me, goes away back to the fall of 1953.
I was nine years old and Henderson, already an outstanding athlete, was 15. It was just before a serious ground hockey game at the old outdoor rink in Brookfield.
“Take this goal stick,” Henderson said as he passed me a custom stick he must have cut out of a rough board. “You can play with the big boys - get in our net.”
My young friends and I followed Henderson’s every move during his early years with Brookfield Elks. CKCL radio, with Win Langille doing the play-by-play and Frank MacDonald the colour man, would broadcast Truro District Hockey League playoff games live. Win also had a very popular Friday night radio program called District Hockey League Roundup.
“Turk Henderson can really thread the needle,” Langille’s voice would come over the radio. “This young centre is deadly around the net.”
One of the league’s leading scorers in the 1950s, Turk’s brothers Terry, Ned and Phil were also outstanding. A younger brother, Mike, would leave his mark years later.
An excerpt from the Truro Daily News April 16, 1956, highlights a hockey series between Rockingham Eagles and the Elks.
“The line of Herman Murphy, Turk Henderson and Johnny Mentis came through, however, when the chips were down. Turk Henderson scored two third-period goals to send the game into overtime. Johnny Mentis, with Murphy assisting, scored the winning goal to give Brookfield an 8-7 win and the Nova Scotia Rural Hockey Championship. Immediately after the game the Elks captain Charlie Toole, who had scored a hat trick in the win, was presented with the championship trophy at centre ice.”
Henderson, now living in New Glasgow, played a big part in 1959-60 as the Elks enjoyed their winningest season ever. The local club won the TDHL title and then defeated Bay Road Rangers and Heatherton Warriors for Nova Scotia honours. Going undefeated, the Elks won 35 straight regular season and playoff games.
The Elks joined the Nova Scotia Senior Hockey League in 1960-61. Henderson, meanwhile, suited up with the rival New Glasgow Rangers.
Playing senior softball for the Elks during the 1960s and 1970s, Henderson, an outstanding shortstop, played a big part as Brookfield won several Nova Scotia and Maritime championships. Henderson fielded ground balls like a pro and he swung a very dangerous bat.
John Matheson, of Brookfield, reflected about that time.
“Turk and I were the same age and started school together. We played a lot of sports right up through. Turk was small in stature but a real outstanding athlete. He played hard. In softball, his uniform was always dirty and in hockey he was always in the corners battling hard. Turk was tough and he was a great teammate.”
Donnie Dennis, of Truro, and Henderson played together with Truro Juvenile Eagles in 1955-56.
“Later, we played against each (other) in the district league. Turk was like all the Hendersons, he always played hard and gave it his best. If there was a scrap, Turk was a good guy to have on your side. Turk Henderson was a real good hockey player.”
Nelson Wilson, New Glasgow, worked with Henderson and they played senior hockey together with New Glasgow Rangers.
“Turk was here in Pictou County for several years and we both worked for Maritime Tel and Tel. We were pretty close friends. The telephone company was like family and Turk fitted right in. Hockey added to our friendship. Turk was a good hockey player and well-liked by the other players. My wife Rene also remembers Turk as a real good bridge player.”
It was only fitting that a near capacity crowd was on hand yesterday to bid farewell to Turk Henderson. The funeral service took place at the Knox United Church in Brookfield.
Lyle Carter’s sports column appears every Saturday in the Truro Daily News.
If you have a story idea, contact him at 673-2857.