Bill W. Hensley died on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2023, from congestive heart failure. He was 88, and had just celebrated his birthday with his wife, who shares a birthday on the same day.
Bill was born in Miller County, Ark. on Aug. 6, 1935, right along the road that runs between Texarkana and Garland City. He was proud of his Arkansas roots and always made sure to claim he was born on that side, rather than Texas.
One of seven children, he was the third oldest, and often told stories of working in the fields between his brothers and sisters. He attended local schools and was a high school basketball star whose coach, worried about an important game, tried to check him out of the hospital early after an appendectomy before Bill’s mother intervened.
He eventually received a basketball scholarship but knew his mother needed help with four younger children and he declined. He took a job at a dairy production plant and his strong work ethic led him to a very successful career that lasted 41 years with Southland Corporation. When he retired, he was managing both the Miami and Winter Haven plants as chief production engineer.
While a teen, he met the love of his life, Kathryn Ann Crittenden, at Methodist Youth Fellowship. He was 18, she was 15 and they dated until they married on Sept. 9, 1956.
In 1957, as a member of the Arkansas National Guard, he was activated by President Eisenhower to Little Rock, Ark., where his unit helped escort children to keep them safe as schools there were integrated.
Bill and Ann’s marriage took them across Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee and finally Florida, with work promotions for Bill. When he saw Winter Haven, tired of all the moves and impressed with the orange groves and lakes, he decided this was the place to stay.
In addition to his work, he was involved with church and Boy Scouts of America. He was so active on the Do It Now Committee at church, that the United Methodist Women made him an honorary member and gave him a lapel pin that he wore on his suit jacket every Sunday where he sat on the next to last pew in the balcony.
Bill was predeceased by his parents, Lola Townsend Hensley, and father Edward Hensley, his brother Donald Hensley, his sisters Eloise Watts, Carol Hill, and his half-brother Melvin Hensley. He is survived by his wife, Ann, who adored him and was his biggest supporter and caregiver. He also is survived by his children, daughter Kathy Skipper (Joe) of Winter Haven; son Keith Hensley of Albuquerque, NM; and son Alan Hensley (Erin) of Bothell, WA. Also surviving are brother Ken Hensley of Aledo, TX; MJ Hensley (Wilma) of Pea Ridge, Ark., Guindolyn Prestidge, Atlanta, TX, half-sister Connie Isner of Odessa, TX, and granddaughter Molly Skipper Steele (Andrew) of Salt Lake City, UT.
The family is grateful for the loving care of friends Yashekia Bragg and Mckinnely Atmore, and the care team at Astoria Senior Living and Good Shepherd Hospice.
The memorial service will be at Beymer Memorial United Methodist Church in Winter Haven on Tuesday, Aug. 22 at 11 a.m. A reception will follow in the Fellowship Hall.
Memorial contributions may be made to The Florida United Methodist Children’s home in Enterprise, Fl.