Juanita T. Henderson "Nita"

May 7, 2019

CHARLOTTE - Juanita T. Henderson (“Nita”) was born May 29, 1928 to Herschel C. Tillman and Ruth Collins Tillman in Appling County, GA, a birthplace she proudly pinpointed as on the edge of the Altamaha River swamp.  Nita shared her childhood with seven siblings and countless kinfolk, all of whom contributed to a rural fabric she treasured and never truly left.  She described her family as poor by the standards of most, but having as much as anyone else they knew, enjoying abundant fresh food, and surrounded by loving family and friends.  Nita graduated from Surrency High School in 1944, where she excelled in athletics, then received her undergraduate degree from Georgia State Teachers College (now Georgia Southern University) and a graduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

After several teaching jobs in Georgia, she moved to Charlotte to teach physical education and coach the girls’ basketball team at Central High School.  A life-long Methodist, Nita soon began attending Charlotte’s First Methodist Church where she met a young attorney, Charles J. Henderson.  They were married in 1950 and had four children, Caroline H. Beavers, Robert E. Henderson, Ruth H. Locke and James H. Henderson. 

Her lifelong service to the Methodist Church began when she was asked at age 7 to play piano for worship services at Surrency Methodist Church, and continued as a devoted member of Charlotte’s First United Methodist Church where she held every conceivable leadership role.  From 1980 to 1988, she served as the first female Chairperson of the Conference Council on Ministries for the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church.  From 1989 to 1994 she served on the Board of the United Methodist Publishing House, which oversees Cokesbury and Abingdon Press.  In the late 1960s, she was the President of the Bethlehem Center, helping low-income children and families with educational programs.  Her several tours as PTA President and leadership in fund raising were epic.

Nita was a very competitive athlete long before it was common for women to compete.  She was a force for years in the City of Charlotte tennis tournaments and later won a gold medal in the Senior Olympics. 

As Nita’s friend or neighbor, you knew her for the homemade bread and vegetable soup she personally delivered for every conceivable reason.  Your Christmas present was very likely to be a bundle of Georgia “fat wood”, neatly tied with a calico ribbon.  True to her roots, Nita made jelly, yogurt, Christmas ornaments, sewed clothes for her children, and “put up” garden vegetables which she stored in the basement.

Her generosity included extraordinary and unfailing love and care to all of her children and grandchildren.

In later years, Nita lovingly nursed husband “Charlie” through more than a decade of decline from Parkinson’s disease until his death in 1999.  Several years later, she married Robert T. Spiro with whom she enjoyed international travel until his failing health prevented it.    

At her core, Nita was a faithful giver who contributed more than she took in every walk of life.   She also knew how and when to be tough, an original “Steel Magnolia” who could turn up the heat if the situation called for it. Nita will be remembered by all who knew her as someone who lived her life with zeal and a faithful, steadfast determination to make things better in ways large and small for her family, her friends and her faith.

Suggested charitable memorial gifts include the Alzheimer’s Association Western Carolina Chapter; United Methodist Foundation of Western North Carolina (13816 Professional Center Drive, Suite 100, Huntersville, NC  28078) and Share Health Southeast Georgia (P.O. Box 1718 Waycross, Georgia 31502)

Funeral services will be 2:00 PM on Friday, May 10, 2019 in the Francis Chapel of Myers Park United Methodist Church.  The family will receive friends following the service.  Interment will be in Elmwood Cemetery after the reception.

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


Share your memories & condolences


  • No comments found