By Jonathan Crane, Founder, former publisher, Tualatin Life
In the literary world “tragedy” is defined as “a series of unfortunate events by which one or more of the literary characters undergoes several misfortunes, which culminate into a disaster of epic proportions. The character is unable to prevent the problem from taking over and results in a catastrophic, grave ending which the tragedy is culminated.”
By now most of you have heard about the homicide of Wendy Jane Henson in Tualatin on July 19. When details of this horrible event emerged in the days following, the story became even more tragic and twisted when it was revealed that her death is alleged to be the result of an assault by her 47-year-old son, who lived with her.
I first met Wendy in 2011 when I was publishing Tualatin Life. She called me to ask about submitting movie reviews as a regular feature. At first I was a little leery because many people consider themselves to be movie critics, but few have the background and education to back it up. Not so with Wendy however, who, without being defensive when asked, shared with me her extensive background as a college instructor in theater arts, creative writing, and film studies at PCC, Marylhurst and PSU. In addition, she was a published author with numerous articles, books and screenplays. She was a pro.
More important than her resume, however, was her passion for the arts. Wendy loved to talk about movies and the writing and actors that brought them to life. Her articles were not fluff, they were well researched, well written and thoughtful. Here’s just one tiny sampling from one of her reviews in 2011, “Danny falls in love with beautiful Ariana. She is deaf, however, and can’t hear the music she inspires him to write. Alexia Rasmussen as Ariana turns in a solid performance which is more remarkable because, for most of her time on screen, she has no lines.”
After realizing the level of her education, devotion and immersion in the world of movies, I would routinely consult her articles in TL when trying to find a good movie to watch. She had splendid taste and a huge appetite for a wide variety of offerings in all sectors of film and loved sharing her astute observations with our community.
Wendy was obviously not a just a casual observer of film, she studied it with diligence. When I once told her how disappointed I was in a film that starred Liam Neeson, she instantly jumped to his defense, rattling off his extensive education at Queen’s University in Belfast, his numerous successes in live theater and his overall mastery of his craft. She didn’t have to look up any of those facts, she just knew them. That’s when you know you have an enthusiast on your hands. That sort of devotion, combined with knowledge, is a rarity, but defined Wendy Jane Henson.
When Wendy died last month, a vast amount of film and literary knowledge was lost as well. She was a local treasure who quietly contributed to her community by sharing her love, her intrigue, for the world of movies. She willingly shared her insights, educating those willing to listen and frequently encouraged others to engage in writing screenplays and joining the literary scene to which she was so well connected.
Wendy Jane Henson will be greatly missed. She defined local exceptionalism. Her life ended in tragedy, but that shouldn’t detract from the joy she brought to others in a lifetime surrounded by great books and film, the true passions of her life.
This note that Wendy wrote to her neighbor shortly before her death reflects the sort of appreciation Wendy had for life’s beauty while tying it together with her passion for writing and film:
Something I just had to tell you. You have a bush…I think it’s a rose…growing in your side yard which has vivid red/orange color. Now there is a single flower at the top which is pretty and a pretty good size. A few evenings ago, however, I was looking out my kitchen window and got a real treat. The setting sun slanted through the trees to perfectly ‘spotlight’ that single bloom. I swear it looked like it was on fire. And it stayed that way quite a while before the sunset faded.
In screen-writing and film, that could be what’s called a visual metaphor. A flaming floral torch among the shadowed trees and shrubs representing a beacon leading the characters through life. Beautiful!
Featuring Local Exceptionalism
A new column featuring local exceptionalism, highlighting individuals, groups or concepts that have had a positive effect in Tualatin. We welcome your nomination of deserving, exceptional people in the Tualatin community.
Please email your suggestions to Jonathan Crane at [email protected].