Donald Leroy Henderson, age 73, of Gulf Breeze, was called home with his family at his side on May 27, 2022. He was born November 11, 1948 in Tuscaloosa, AL to the late Carl Leroy and Mary Francis Henderson. Donald was a proud graduate of Tuscaloosa County High School, class of 1967; he subsequently earned a bachelor's degree in Physical Education from the University of Alabama, class of 1973; and a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from the University of West Florida, class of 1979. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1967 and was deployed to Southeast Asia on active duty until 1969, then continued to serve in the Naval Reserve until 1992, where he retired at the rank of Chief. Donald was also commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Dunwoody, GA Post. He began his physical education teaching career at Max Bruner Jr. Junior High, in Fort Walton Beach, FL and Shalimar Elementary, in Shalimar, FL. Donald also taught biology and ecology at Fort Walton Beach High School, until his retirement in 2001. There he served as coach of the cross country and track and field teams. Donald was an athlete of distinction, running many marathons, including Boston three times. In 2002 he was the Northwest Florida Amateur Athlete of the Year with the All Sports Association. Donald sat on the Board of Directors of the Atlanta Track Club, served as coach of the Roy Benson Nike Running Camp at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, and as president of the Northwest Florida Track Club. With his friend Maggie, he founded the Recycle Run on Thanksgiving Day, a race that continues more than 20 years later. He was an accredited USA Track and Field Official, a role that took him to meets all over the country. In his spare time, he enjoyed running, the beach, reading, and most of all his family and friends.
Donald is preceded in death by his parents. Those left with fond memories are his wife, Nelda Rawls Henderson; children, Jason Daniel Henderson (Alicia) of Lawrenceville, GA and Katrena Leigh Henderson (Charlie) of Annandale, VA; brother, Carl Richard Henderson (Pamela) of Northport, AL; grandchildren, Daniel, Reid, Brianna, Sania and Charlotte; and a host of friends, students, and track mates.
Visitation will begin at 10:30am Monday June 13th until the memorial service begins at 11:30am, at Rose Lawn Funeral Home, 2942 Gulf Breeze Parkway, Gulf Breeze, FL 32563. Private interment will follow at Barrancas National Cemetery with full military honors.
The family requests that in lieu of flowers donations be made to Wounded Warrior Project or Multiple System Atrophy.