Gayle E. Henry, a lifelong social justice advocate, passed away on September 1st in Springfield, Oregon, at the age of 80. Gayle was born in Palmyra, PA to working-class parents. She was an only child with a strong independent spirit. Growing up, she was surrounded by family and friends. Gayle attended Palmyra Area Junior-Senior High School, where she played basketball, volleyball, and was known for her remarkable soprano voice in the school Chorus. In the 10th grade, she met her future husband, Allen Henry, on a blind date. Gayle graduated Class Valedictorian of her high school and enrolled at Hershey Junior College a year after Allen. Allen and Gayle made lifelong friends while at junior college. After graduating in 1960, she continued her education at Millersville University in Millersville, PA to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree. She married Allen Henry in her senior year of college, and upon graduation in 1962, she started her career as an English and History teacher with the School District of Lancaster. Gayle and Allen purchased a home, and shortly thereafter started a family.
Gayle is most well-known for her activism, spanning decades, as a grassroots organizer, public advocate, leader, and public speaker. Her involvement included the Civil Rights and Women's Rights Movements. She worked tirelessly against discrimination, for access to safe and affordable healthcare, for the ERA amendment, and for abortion rights. She promoted Environmental Stewardship that included safe energy alternatives along with conservation. She was a humanitarian and lived her life by the guiding principle of "The Greatest Good for the Greatest Number." She was instrumental in opening over a dozen shelters statewide and running crisis centers for women and children. She presented testimony at the state legislature, lobbied legislators, and participated in crafting bills, protecting and supporting women and children that became law in the State of Pennsylvania. Gayle was the Executive Director of NARAL PA and a representative of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Central PA. She was the Director of Planned Parenthood and a volunteer counselor at Planned Parenthood of Lancaster. Additionally, she held the positions of Chairperson for Pro-Choice Task Force of Lancaster and Board Member (and writer) for "Women Will" publication. Gayle was also an active member of Lancaster Friends Meeting.
Gayle took an interest in custom home design and construction. Over the years, she designed and sold log homes, modular homes, and sun solariums. In 1987, Gayle enrolled in real estate coursework and successfully passed her Pennsylvania Real Estate License exam. Shortly thereafter, Allen accepted a job opportunity to transfer to sunny Southern California. In September 1988, Gayle successfully passed her California Real Estate License exam. In November of the same year, her husband and the love of her life, Allen died of cancer. In 1991, Gayle moved to the coastal town of Newport, Oregon. While in Newport, she served on the board of Habitat for Humanity and became an avid watercolor painter. In 1998, she moved to Washington State where she advocated for Native American Indian and Tribal rights. In 2010, she moved back to Oregon to be closer to her family and continued her advocacy for the common good and social justice by volunteering for Democratic candidates. Gayle maintained her strong independent spirit throughout her later years.
Gayle is survived by her three children; David Henry, Rachel (Henry) D'Sa, and Kirsten Henry-Lea, four grandchildren, three step grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.
Due to Covid-19, a memorial service will not be held at this time. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation in her name to one of the following social justice organizations Gayle valued: Planned Parenthood, NARAL, National Committee for an Effective Congress, and the American Friends Service Committee.
Let our lives be in accordance of our convictions of right, each striving to carry out our principles.
- Lucretia Mott