The Hendersin Family

In September 2018 Janet Hendersin of Sparta, Wisconsin send an e-mail to the office of the 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans in Honolulu. She wrote that her husband Ralph was in possession of letters that had been written by several 100th soldiers to his Hendersin relatives. Ralph gave the 100th permission to scan these letters and include them on the 100th’s website.

Family Members

Janet explained that two Hendersin brothers, Scott and Ralph Senior, had married two sisters, Marie and Doris. Marie met the 100th soldiers who were stationed at nearby Camp McCoy (from June 1942 – January 1943) when she was a volunteer at the USO and invited them to her family’s farm. The letters were written to Marie and her husband Scott, to thank them for their kindness and hospitality. Marie also wrote to several of the soldiers and sometimes sent homemade cookies to them after the battalion left Wisconsin and went to Camp Shelby in Mississippi.

Scott and Marie had six children. Ellwood was in the Army and later was wounded in Italy. Wendell was in the Navy and had survived the attack by Japan at Pearl Harbor. In December 1946, he was one of three aviation radiomen who were killed in Admiral Richard Byrd’s Antarctic expedition. The four youngest children – Betty, Nancy, JoAnne, and Bobby – were at home during 1942–1943, and the soldiers often referred to them in their letters. Janet said she was six years old when the 100th was at Camp McCoy. Her home was near the Army base so she often saw the soldiers.

Ralph Sr. and Doris’ children were Ruby, Dolores who was an Army WAC but still at home during this period, Boyd who was in the Navy serving in the South Pacific, James, and Ralph Jr. who was in the Air Force and later stationed in Korea. Missing their sons who had gone off to war, both families entertained the young soldiers.

Dolores had taken photos and after she died, they were given to Janet’s husband, Ralph Jr. When JoAnne Hendersin Olsen died in July 2018, the letters were among items given to Ralph Jr. as he was the only living member of that generation in both families.

Letters

There are letters from Captain Alex McKenzie, ten soldiers and several of their family members in Hawaii who wrote to thank the Hendersins for their kindness. One family sent five pounds of sugar, two cans of pineapple and two packages of coffee, all grown in Hawaii.

One of the men, Francis Nakamura, writing from Camp Shelby, expressed the sentiments of all those who had visited the Hendersins’ farm: “You will always be in our hearts and be remembered and cherished as good friends.”

Photographs

Ralph Jr. had donated the photos to the Monroe County Local History Room and Museum in Sparta. Its Director and County Historian, Jarrod Roll, kindly scanned the eight photos so they could be included with this story.

The back of one of the photos with many Hendersin family members and the soldiers included the following notation: Mrs. Scott Hendersin (Marie) worked at Camp McCoy in 1942 and made friends with the Hawaiian soldiers. She and her husband brought some of the men out to their farm home and also to the Ralph Hendersin Sr farm. The people of Sparta befriended these soldiers and they were invited to their homes for Sunday dinners or picnics. Many lasting friendships were formed. Some of the men married girls from the area and settled here after the war. Others came back to visit their former friends.