By Traci Chapman
Ellen Henson is always moving forward — she has lived a life full of adventure and meaning, and retirement hasn’t slowed her quest to make a difference for others and expand her horizons.
On Saturday, those horizons will include a first for the popular Spanish Cove resident, as she represents Yukon in the Ms. Oklahoma Senior America Pageant.
Henson is one of 15 contestants in the April 15 event, scheduled for 1-3 p.m. at Mustang Performing Arts Center, 200 W. Juniper. Ms. Senior America is an opportunity to showcase women who exemplify the “dignity, maturity and inner beauty of all senior Americans,” while reaffirming the contributions and self-worth of older individuals, Ms. Oklahoma Senior America pageant administrator Carol Kallenberger said.
Henson is definitely a living embodiment of all of the characteristics sought by the pageant, Spanish Cove Marketing Director Jill Huff said.
“Ellen is just someone so special, she’s an amazing lady, and she’s a bright star for all of us, constantly working to help everyone else and inspiring everyone with her energy and enthusiasm,” Huff said.
Henson might be 83 years old, but you wouldn’t know it – not by her appearance or by the way she works to advocate for Spanish Cove and its residents. She is a Cove ambassador and is one of two women spearheading an effort to create a celebration/memorial garden at Spanish Cove’s pavilion.
“Ellen truly is a force of nature – she inspires you to do more, be better,” Huff said. “We are so lucky to have so many incredible, wonderful residents, and Ellen is a true gem.”
Henson heads into the April 15 pageant having never even considered being in one, she said.
“It’s funny – they were talking about it and what’s involved and I’ve never done anything like that,” Henson said. “And talent? I’ve sung in church…”
But her talent number is now set, as she prepares for the Saturday event. Contestants are judged on an interview, philosophy of life, evening gown and that pesky talent segment.
“I thought about it and realized that Spanish Cove is so much a part of what the pageant is advocating – healthy aging, enriching and empowering seniors,” she said. “And that’s very much what I believe in, as well; it’s a reason why I love it here so much.”
Henson was born and raised in Wagoner and met her husband Kenneth when he was an athlete and she was a cheerleader.
“We married very young and he went to work as a teacher and coach at Will Rogers High School,” she said.
The couple would go on to live in Texas for several years, where Henson eventually also became a teacher after graduating from college. They went into the restaurant business before they moved to Yukon to be near their son.
The Henson’s became familiar with Spanish Cove as Kenneth dealt with Parkinson’s; in 2021, Henson would deal with back surgery, then the loss of her husband a month later. She moved to Spanish Cove in May 2021.
That was the beginning of her most recent adventure, loving her life with her friends at the Cove, interspersed with time with her son, two daughters and six grandchildren, with another grandchild expected to arrive in May.
Through it all is Henson’s philosophy, one that will be showcased on Saturday.
“I just want to encourage women – that they might not no2 be able to do great things as they did before but can do small things in a great way,” Henson said. “We all have the opportunity to touch a life and make a difference.”