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Martha Lillian Henderson

November 28, 1944 ~ January 5, 2018 (age 73)

Martha Lillian Henderson

November 28, 1944 – January 5, 2018


Martha Lillian Henderson passed away on January 5, 2018.  Martha was born in Greenville, NC. She is the daughter of Thomas Henry and Doris Boyette Henderson. She attended Duke University where she obtained her Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 1968 and her Masters of Science in Nursing in 1978.  Later she attended Yale University where she earned a Master of Divinity and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, gaining her Doctor of Ministry. She also earned Family Nurse Practitioner and Geriatric Nurse Practitioner degrees from UNC, becoming the first Geriatric Nurse Practitioner in North Carolina.

Martha had a distinguished nursing career, starting at San Francisco General Hospital and later with the VA Hospital in Durham, NC, on the faculty of the UNC School of Medicine, Program on Aging and School of Nursing, also serving on the UNC Hospitals Ethics Committee.  She was chair of the American College of Nurse Practitioners End-of-Life Task Force.  In 1998, Martha received the Distinguished Contributions to Science in Nursing Award from Duke University’s School of Nursing. She was the first director of in-patient nursing at Carol Woods Retirement Community, a position she held for ten years.

As a pioneer in end-of-life care, Martha was a faculty scholar with the Soros Foundation’s Project on Death in America, with expertise in advanced care planning.  Martha’s passion as an ‘end of life facilitator’ was helping patients have a good death.

 She shared her experiences and expertise as a geriatric nurse practitioner through workshops, trainings, and scholarly articles, educating other care providers about end of life and palliative care.  She co-authored the book Improving Nursing Home Care of the Dying: A Training Manual for Nursing Home Staff.   

A devout Christian, Martha was a deacon and sang in the choir at Binkley Baptist Church.  Martha’s nursing career took her across the globe as she created avenues to put her faith and skills into action.  After learning Vietnamese, she spent two years teaching nursing in Nha Trang, Vietnam, as a volunteer with the United Methodist Committee on Overseas Relief.  With other church members, she helped re-locate a Vietnamese refugee family to the Chapel Hill area.  As a missionary to Loma Linda, Columbia, she spent six months teaching nursing.  Martha also taught at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa, and provided medical care in the townships  

She is survived by her husband of 36 years Carl Henley, her brother Thomas Henderson, her stepdaughter Caroline Henley and husband Richard Thorne, and two step grandsons Marshall Thorne and Jacob Thorne. She was preceded in death by her stepson Andrew Carlisle Henley, and her sister Camilla Henderson Taft.

Martha wished to have her body cremated, and her wish is being honored.  A memorial service will be held at Binkley Baptist Church, 1712 Willow Dr., Chapel Hill, NC, on February 4 at 3 pm. 

If you would like to make a contribution in her memory, you can do so at Binkley Baptist Church, 1712 Willow Dr., Chapel Hill, NC 27514, and specify that it is for the choir.  Or you can donate to Heifer International.

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