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Longtime bagpiper had knack for teaching

| Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012, 8:30 p.m.

As a boy, James Henderson's parents encouraged him to take up the violin.

“His parents forced him to play the violin and he hated it. Then, when he was about 12, he somehow got them to let him try the bagpipes, which he played for the rest of his life,” said Mr. Henderson's son, Kirk Henderson of McCandless.

James Henderson Jr. of Plum, a Korean War veteran and retired energy executive, died on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012, from complications related to Parkinson's disease. He was 83.

Mr. Henderson was born in Swissvale to James and Ida Henderson on Sept. 24, 1929. He graduated from Swissvale High School and from Grove City College with a degree in business.

After four years in the Air Force that included a year in Korea, Mr. Henderson returned to Swissvale, where he met the first of his two wives, June MacMillan. The two married in 1956, and she died in 1984. Mr. Henderson married Elizabeth “Betty” Horne in 1985. His second wife died in 2000.

For more than two decades, Mr. Henderson was an employee relations executive with Consolidated Natural Gas in Clarksburg, W.Va. While there, he taught business at Salem College.

“He should have been a teacher. He was really good at that, people have told me. He also taught inside the company — training people about how to be manager,” his son said.

Though he lived two hours away from Pittsburgh for 23 years, Mr. Henderson was usually in the city several times a month.

He held Steelers season tickets for 40 years and attended the first and last Pirates games at Three Rivers Stadium.

But the bagpipes routinely brought Mr. Henderson back to his native city. A member of the Syria Highlander Bagpipe Band in Pittsburgh, Mr. Henderson practiced and performed in the city several times a month.

“He would get up at 7 a.m. on the weekend and practice at home before leaving for Pittsburgh. I remember him waking me up as a teenager when he practiced. I did not always like that,” Kirk Henderson said.

Mr. Henderson retired in 1986 and moved back to Pittsburgh, where he lived in Regent Square and later at Longwood at Oakmont, a retirement community in Plum.

In his later years, Mr. Henderson enjoyed his son's growing family.

“He was the nicest guy ever. We went to dinner all the time — at the sort of nice fancy restaurants that young people never can afford,” said Kristin Henderson, his daughter-in-law.

In addition to his son, Mr. Henderson is survived by his longtime companion, Joan Siedensticker, and four grandchildren.

Friends will be received from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday in T.B. Devlin Funeral Home, 806 Perry Highway in Ross. A funeral service will be held there at 10:30 a.m. Monday, followed by interment in Homewood Cemetery.

A memorial service open to all will be held at 1 p.m. Dec. 1 in Longwood at Oakmont, 500 Route 909 in Plum.

Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or at

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