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Larry and Shirley Henschen


January 8, 1935  –  April 14, 2007


Larry G. Henschen was born to Lawrence and Dorothea Henschen. Larry graduated from Arsenal Technical High School, Indianapolis, in 1953 and from Purdue University in 1957. He married Shirley J. Alley in 1958. His entire career was spent in aerospace, including 18 years of work on the space shuttle and space station for NASA-Johnson Space Center in Houston; he retired from Boeing in 2002. He was preceded in death by his parents and survived by his wife of 48 years, Shirley; daughters Carla J. Carey (Shawn) and Patricia R. Henschen; granddaughters Catherine and Emily Carey. He was especially interested in environmental issues, philately, and genealogical research.




David and I met Shirley and Larry and later the rest of their family when we moved to Phoenix. Shirley kindly and ably worked hard at our business there. Larry and Shirley became our great friends. If you go on the tour at NASA near Houston, there is a huge building that has a replica of one of the space shuttle modules in it. Right under and in front of it is a desk. That was Larry’s desk. He tested the computer workings of the shuttle to make sure all would go okay before launch. Larry and Shirley went on a trip to Mexico with the Heard Museum in the 1990s. While there, they were taken to a school. The school had solar energy but it wasn’t working. Larry and Shirley raised money and interest among their tour group and later Larry and one or two other men went back to Mexico with supplies and tools and got the school’s solar power working again.

Larry and Shirley built a beautiful home in the ICA community north of Puerto Vallarta. I have visited them there with each of my husbands. Each time, they came into Puerto Vallarta and picked us up and hosted us like we were at an exotic resort somewhere, which in truth we were. Larry and Shirley tried to teach David and I to play bridge and we did have fun at it. Larry and Shirley were quite a team at that! David and Larry worked on the lights and the solar systems there for both Larry and Shirley’s home and for Ray Caruso’s. Their home is off the grid, entirely solar including a refrigerator that freezes cold enough for ice and ice cream. They have two water cisterns, one ten thousand and one fifteen thousand gallons, that collect and purify rainwater. It is up the hill from the beach and ocean. We watched whales cavorting in the bay there. It is gorgeous, white with arches on porches on two sides, beautiful woodwork, bananas that taste like apples in the yard. When Larry was a child he had a nick name of Sparky because of his interest in how things like spark plugs worked. These are just a few of my memories (possibly not so accurate :o) of a dear friend.

          ~~  Ann Shafer


Well, I have to say a word about Larry. We first met at one of the early Movemental Order Councils–it may even have been the very first one in 1966. I can recall how full of excitement he was then over what he’d been a part of accomplishing in Framingham, MA–which was one of our earliest applications of the 5th City presuppositions outside of Chicago. I think we recognized each other from the start as fellow regional warriors, and we struck up a lasting colleagueship and friendship. There was always an edge in our relationship–a bit competitive, probably (we were guys, after all!)–and neither of us hesitated for a moment to challenge or push the other’s thinking, assumptions, acting or mode of being. It was always good natured, but it was also deeply serious.


We mainly saw and worked together at the summer programs and councils in Chicago up through 1970. That fall, those of us in the Detroit Region were preparing to start the Detroit House, with Len and Elaine Hockley among the prime movers. By this time, Larry and Shirley’ s first assignment r  was to none other than the new Detroit House.


Our family didn’t make the shift to Symbolic Order that year, but we saw the Henschens a lot during it. I was still on the faculty at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, and it seems at least once a month I would make the three-hour drive to Detroit for some activity at the House, or Larry and Shirley would be in Kalamazoo for some activity there or just as part of their circuiting the region. I was supposedly making an effort that year to see how far I could get toward finishing my doctoral dissertation, while at the same time teaching EI courses around the country about every third weekend. I acknowledged that I wasn’t making much progress on getting it written, and Larry proposed that I come to the House on every free weekend I had. They would create a Monk’s Cell for me there, where I would in effect be cloistered, isolated from all the distractions of life, and could focus with purity of heart on my writing.


We actually did this for several weekends that year. The trouble, as you might guess, was that, instead of staying in my cell with quill pen scratching on parchment, he and I would get into extended conversations about the Local Church Experiment that we’d launched that year, and I’d wind up making little progress on my writing. We soon both became aware that this effort was a pleasant fiction that we were using to have our missional conversations. Before the year was up, Roxana and I had made the decision to become part of the Symbolic Order ourselves, and the dissertation project was packed away.


When the Order structures ended in 1988, our family was in Asia and Larry’s in the US. That summer assembly in Mexico was the last ICA gathering at which we shared perspectives and drinks. After our family returned to the US several years later, there were times I’d try to connect with him, especially in the latter ’90s when I happened to be in Phoenix for meetings. Prickly as ever, Larry would make a point on the phone of assuring me that, while I was always welcome in their home, I’d damn well better not be raising money for the organization! I was always quick to assure him that, while I fully intended to work him over, extracting money from him was the last thing on my mind. When we did manage to get together on these occasions, Shirley was always the gentle presence that ensured our interchanges stayed on a collegial plane.


I’m sure that many of my colleagues didn’t find Larry the easiest person to work with. He had a highly developed bullshit detector, which was pretty much always active. This had at times to prove irritating to those around him. Once convinced that something was the necessary deed, however, Larry always put his whole being into making it happen. It was just that he did require solid convincing. He always had that characteristic slightly crooked smile–the outward manifestation of his highly developed sense of humor–something that allowed him, even when hurt or angry, to find some comedic elements in any given situation.


I celebrate Larry’s completed life. We shared many similar experiences from the early days of the movement and then found ourselves on paths that led in somewhat different directions. He was always one of my great colleagues in the spirit movement.

          ~~  Gordon Harper