A man who has worn many different work hats for the City of Jackson over a period covering parts of five decades has decided it’s time to clock out for the last time.

Ed Henderson, who served the citizens of Jackson for more than 36 years, officially retired, effective Friday, Jan. 8. Current Mayor Randy Evans made it a point to congratulate Henderson on a Facebook post and also mentioned Henderson’s retirement at the two most recent meetings of Jackson City Council.

“It has been rewarding,” Henderson told The Telegram of his lengthy and varying city service. “I got to do different things and I learned different things.” Henderson noted that he has worked for five different mayors: Burleigh Oiler, Tom Evans, Shane Goodman, Randy Heath, and Randy Evans.

For the past 16 years, Henderson has served as the foreman of the City’s Fairmount Cemetery which covers 1,500 acres with approximately 15,000 burials to date. He and his crew were also responsible for the smaller James Cemetery on East Broadway Street as well as mowing the Lillian Jones Museum lawn on West Broadway Street.

The foreman’s job was especially challenging during the past year as Henderson attempted to keep up with seasonal mowing and weed-eating work with a smaller full-time staff than in past years and with problems finding and keeping temporary help in the warm-weather months.

In spite of the recent adversity, the personable Henderson says he has found his work at the cemetery meaningful, as he has the opportunity to help people during their saddest times.

“I was able to work with a lot of people at one of their lowest moments,” Henderson reflected. “If people had a bad day, I wanted them to feel good about leaving their loved ones there. I enjoyed trying to make their bad time better.”

While the back end of his career was defined by his leadership and presence at Fairmount Cemetery, Henderson’s first experience with the City began in 1983 when he first worked as an auxiliary officer with the Jackson Police Department (JPD). Two years later, then Police Chief Wayne Kight invited him out to lunch and offered him a job as a full-time dispatcher at JPD for a wage of $5 an hour. Henderson took the job and also began to take law enforcement training classes at Hocking Tech, which led to some subsequent work as an undercover investigator and as a JPD officer.

Henderson then had stints with the Jackson City Garbage Department and later as a janitor at the Jackson Memorial Building before accepting the lead job at Fairmount Cemetery, which was then called the sexton’s position.

Henderson’s outgoing personality, unpretentious manner and buoyant sense of humor made him a popular figure with his fellow city employees and with the public he served. In the 1980s he was one of the founders of Pig Iron Day, which to this day remains a popular summertime event in Jackson. In 1983, was elected as Democratic member of Jackson City Council but had to resign after becoming a city employee.

Henderson grew up in the Jackson area as one of eight children and attended Jackson High School where he gained some practical work skills in the T&I program. After high school, he joined the U.S. Army before returning to civilian life as a railroad employee for seven years, prior to his career with the City of Jackson.

While Henderson has retired from the City, don’t expect to see him idle. He will have more time to use his talents as an auctioneer through his personal business, Ed’s Auction Service, and he also expects to use a backhoe he has acquired to do some excavating work as another side business.

On a personal level, Henderson also will have more time to spend with his family. His wife, Marge, also has more time on her hands as she retired last month and they have two daughters and six grandchildren. Between the auctioneering and excavating gigs, Henderson plans to head West on vacations to see such natural treasures as the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park and the Redwoods in California.

Along the way, Henderson has shown he has never been afraid to try something new, make a major change or reinvent himself.

“You’re never a failure until you give up trying,” Henderson offered. His advice is meaningful because he not only says it, he has lived it.