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‘Troops’ honor Henderson

Sergeant laid to rest in solemn ceremony

Posted: December 3, 2008 10:36 p.m.
Updated: December 4, 2008 12:40 p.m.

More than 200 people showed their respect for sheriff's Sgt. Archibald Henderson Jr. as the procession made its way to the Eternal Valley Memorial Park.

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In life, he always put his "troops" first.

At the end of his life, the "troops" put Sgt. Archibald "Archie" E. Henderson Jr. first.

On Wednesday morning, a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department motorcade slowly wound its way through Santa Clarita, from one end of the city to the other, in a line of black-and-white patrol cars almost a half-mile long.

More than 200 people, all but a few of them sheriff's deputies wearing green uniforms, turned out to show their respect for the "warrior with a heart."

The sergeant had a reputation of being tough but true.

Henderson died of a heart attack Nov. 21. He would have turned 59 years old next week.

As the procession made its way from the Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Church on Copperhill Drive to the Eternal Valley Memorial Park on Sierra Highway, scores of people stopped on the sidewalks to watch.

"Some guys were standing with their hats in their hands, showing their respect, some saluted," said retired Lt. John Samuel, who worked with Henderson in Altadena two decades ago.

"He walked around with a steel-like barrier around him but once you got to the inside of that man you found a guy who was caring and giving and just plain awesome," Samuel said.

Henderson worked at the South Facility of the Pitchess Detention Center, where he earned the respect of many.

He joined the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department on Mar. 11, 1973, when he was 23 years old.

Henderson worked as a deputy at Men's Central Jail for four years, then was transferred to Altadena Station in 1977.

His assignments included routine patrol, watch deputy, jailer and crime prevention positions.

He also served as an acting sergeant.

Henderson earned his Bachelor's Degree in Criminology in 1985 and many commendations from the community and his supervisors along the way.

He moved to the Santa Clarita Valley in 1989 when he was promoted to sergeant and transferred to the Pitchess Detention Center.

Henderson became a fixture at Pitchess.

Over the course of two decades, he worked at all of the jail's facilities including North County Correctional Facility, East Facility, North Facility and South Facility.

He earned his Master's Degree in Emergency Services Administration in 2004 from California State University, Long Beach.

At the funeral service, a young deputy approached one of Henderson's two older sisters to express how he felt.

"I want you to know," he said, chin quivering and starting to cry, "it was a pleasure working for him. He was a great man."

As the young deputy turned away, Henderson's sister, Emily Lawrence, said: "When it came to his troops, they came first."

She and her older sister, Bobbie Anne Currie, recalled their little brother as a practical "jokester" who would tease them but who would always end up doing the "right thing."

Sgt. Ken Westfall was Henderson's "radio co-partner" responding to sheriff's calls together.

"We sat shoulder-to-shoulder in close proximity for more time than you spend with your wife," Westfall said. "Archie was courageous. He was always a couple of steps in front of me when we responded to high-risk calls.

"He was true blue almost to a fault."

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