Lawrence Ray Henderson

February 6, 2021

CHARLOTTE - Lawrence Ray Henderson “Coach”, 78, of Charlotte, passed away at his home on February 6, 2021. He was born on June 15, 1942 in Hendersonville, NC, just months before his father William Lawrence Henderson departed for WWII. His mother, Mary Cleveland Henderson, moved with him to Atlanta where they lived until his father returned when he was three. The only child of an Exxon tanker driver and a bank teller, he learned about work ethic and commitment. At a young age, Larry developed a love for the peaceful pastime of fishing. A multi-sport athlete and trombone player in the All-State Band (the latter of which had to be dropped because it was interfering with his football), he spent the summers working at his family’s Henderson County apple orchard before he departed for Raleigh and his beloved NC State. A pledge of the Pershing Rifle National Military Society, he studied forestry and wildlife management, graduated with a teaching degree and a Bachelor of Science in Zoology, and embarked on his life-long journey of teaching and coaching.

In 1965, he moved to Charlotte to take his first teaching job as one of the first white teachers at segregated Second Ward High School. That fall, he attended a church singles outing at Park Lanes Bowling Alley where he met his future bride, Jo Ann Oetzman. Immediately smitten, he drove her home that night and a few months later, they were engaged. They married on August 14, 1966, beginning their 54-year dedication to each other. A week later, Larry started teaching science at his new home away from home, Albemarle Road Junior High, where he remained for the balance of his 30-year career. Never one to be idle, he spent a summer fighting forest fires in the Klamath National Forest in California, another learning and conducting research at Texas A&M, and many others taking groups of students on trips to Canada and the western United States. He would return to his family with a full beard and tales of his adventures, with photographs usually taken out the window while driving and framed with a small portable fan and sideview mirror in the bottom corner. At ARJH, he coached football, baseball, and girls’ basketball; and served as Athletic Director. Scarcely a night went by where he wasn’t grading papers or typing on purple duplicate paper preparing a test to be run on the mimeograph machine. He would arrive before sunrise to manicure his ballfields and would stay late to let the youth leagues play ball in the gym. Despite a bit of healthy fear as middle schoolers, his students reciprocated his love, evidenced later in life with the excitement and mutual admiration that came from their chance encounters.

The center of his world was his family. In addition to all his responsibilities, he was at every game his children played, unless he was coaching one himself. He treasured sharing his love of fishing with his children. Nothing made him prouder than watching his son reel in a fish from their boat in the middle of Waverly Pond (which he personally restocked regularly) or posing for a picture with his daughter holding up a largemouth bass so that everyone in the tackle shop could see. He shared his secret fishing holes on Badin, Tuckertown and Tillery Lakes with his son, along with the art of hosting his signature fish fry to exacting specifics. In later years, seeing these traditions continued provided Larry with tremendous joy.

At the age of 55, with a treasured lifetime and career of teaching behind him, he retired with plans to fish, assist with his son’s landscaping company and continue as Athletic Director at his favorite school. But a mere six weeks later, a massive hemorrhagic stroke changed his world. Always a big talker, when aphasia took his voice, he refused to stop communicating. Whether through a kind smile, sound effects and his very own personal version of sign language, he continued to connect, inspire and endear those around him. Paralyzed on his right side, he fought back to walk his daughter down the aisle nine months later and to continue fishing with his son. He and Jo Ann bought a little house on Badin Lake where he spent his days fishing on the dock and amazing bystanders with his ability to thread a hook with one hand. He walked delicately with his cane through the crowds at NC State football games and no matter the outcome, he was never critical of the boys in red and white. Although years followed with more adversity in the form of cancer, heart bypass surgery and complications, he found a way to learn how to walk all over again four separate times. He never quit lifting his thumb in the air with a big half smile, charming every waitress, nurse or stranger he met.

He deeply loved and inspired many, especially his grandchildren. He looked forward to the annual beach trips, playing mancala and checkers and curling them up close to him with his strong left arm. “A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” Coach Henderson was an unrelenting example of the best of the human spirit. We are all better by experiencing his smile, his selflessness and ultimately, his simple gift of love.

Adored by his church family, fellow ARJH teachers and coaches, and Badin Lake Resort neighbors, he was blessed with a network of support and friendship. A former student, Dr. Dimitrios (Takie) Hondros provided skilled care and was an adored and trusted advisor. Larry’s final months were made better by the joy and laughter from his angels, Dianne, Sharipha and Shay coupled with the supportive hand of Hospice of Charlotte.

Larry is survived by his loving wife, Jo Ann, whose dedication was beyond measure and enabling him to thrive and enjoy their life together, his daughter Amy Henderson Fullbright and husband Kent of Raleigh, and his son David Lawrence Henderson and wife Ashley of Charlotte. He was a beloved Granddaddy to Charlotte Byrd Fullbright and Henry Lawrence Fullbright.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Triangle Aphasia Project, 171 High House Road, Suite 11, Cary, NC 27511 or the NC Wildlife Endowment Fund, 1702 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1702. Graveside services will be held at 3:00pm on Wednesday, February 10, 2021 at Sunset Memory Gardens.

Arrangements are in the care of Kenneth W. Poe Funeral & Cremation Service, 1321 Berkeley Ave., Charlotte, NC; 28204 (704) 641-7606. Online condolences can be shared at


Share your memories & condolences


  • John and Gail Fries

    Dear Jo Ann, Amy and David, Though it has been fifty years since I sat in a boat with Larry, I never see a bass break the water, catch a shell cracker or bait with a night crawler without fond memories of out experiences on the lake, at the hot hole or a favorite farm pond. I remember well the copious fishing records he kept and his remarkable ability to predict the kind and size of the fish with the first movement of his line in the water. Gail and I will always treasure our first few years in Charlotte and our early friendship, first developed as neighbors with common professions and later as young parents. Larry’s obituary was a fitting tribute to a gentleman and to a life well lived. May God bless you and your family.

  • Jack Ruff

    I was in the Hendersonville High School Band with Larry and remember when he made the decision to play football instead of trombone ! I played trumpet in the All-State Band with Larry. Always thought a lot of Larry although we both moved on after graduation. I remember seeing Larry at our High School reunions. Glad to read of all his success with his coaching and his family. I am sure Larry will be missed. I will be praying for all his family and friends.

  • Kyle Hodge

    Coach Henderson coached and taught my sister, brother, and me at ARJH in the 70’s and 80’s. We loved his fishing stories and his love of sports. He cared enough to come to my sister’s wedding years later. His giant personality made an impact on us and helped to shape us into who we are today. Thank you Coach Henderson!


    Dear Jo Ann & Family
    Worked with Larry supplying athletic equipment and uniforms for ARJH.
    Our daughters were students of his.
    Never met a man that was more of an encouragement in so many ways.
    We fished together from his boat at Baden.
    I remember the white headbands for the lambs ears at Christmas time.
    Love in Christ

  • Gloria Harris

    Larry was so for nice to deal with -he was a very good coach ,etc! Everyone knew him and had respect for him!! Please , know I am thinking of the family❤️

  • Gloria Harris

    I liked Larry so much -he was a good sport andwas always so competitive !! Know I am thinking of his family❤️

    competitive -so sorry to hear more about him -please , know I am thinking of his family❤️

  • Becky Jackson

    Couch was such an awesome man, knowing him as Couch Henderson at ARJH was awesome then to he’d fill evenings and weekends fishing out at Thompson Children’s Home pond in the 70’s and as a kid there knew you’d always find him there. Great memories of a time we caught a baby snake in our house parents room, I said I know how to find out what kind it was, you guessed it, we go marching over to the farm and sure enough there we found the man who could tell us, “Coach “. I’ll never forget he said yeap that’s a baby copper head and they were more poisonous then the adult. Enjoyed every minute.
    Then we reconnected at Badin Lake, his wife JoAnn and I were preparing for our first VBS and I was new down there, she introduced herself ( JoAnn Henderson) we continued talking about our jobs, family, were we were from and she was saying Larrry this and that and he coached. Then it hit me, I asked where her husband coached at, that I grew up knowing a Coach Henderson from ARJH. And now 18/19 years later, it saddens my heart that a great person has left us but brings joy to my heart that he’s now fishing with Jesus.
    Thank you JoAnna for sharing your life.
    Peace be with you,

  • John Burleson

    My friend, my buddy, my mentor.....worked with Larry for more than 25 years at ARJHS. He gave his all to the school and his students/players. Larry loved his God, his family, and life. No grass ever grew under his feet as he was always on the move making life better for all who knew him. Even when faced with all the illnesses and difficulties he encountered ,there was always a "thumbs-up" and "click" meaning I am OK and it is great to see you. He always asked about kids he had taught/coached and even pointed them out in yearbook pictures and smiled when I told him that so and so just got married or got a promotion. Every time I ran into any of our old "Roadies", they all wanted to know how Coach Henderson was doing. Larry, you have left a tremendous life legacy and I am proud to have been a part of it. Rest in peace, my friend !

  • Jennings’s and Judy Wise

    Jo Ann and family, we are so sorry for your loss. Larry will be missed by all that new him. You are in our thoughts and prayers.???

  • Thomas Wyatt

    We coached at different Junior High Schools (Eastway) and Albermarle RD) we competed against one another for about twenty years, despite however won the game we always maintain our friendship. During the early and late seventies you were there for me. As a young black man you were you help me understand the system and how to become an effective coach. Thanks Larry !! We will meet again with Mattew, Henry, Harmon, and John Jenkins and others who coached God’s children. Tom Wyatt

Load More