Winnifred (Wyn) Hilda Davis Henderson was a child of the manse and one of three sisters who attended the United Church Training School (UCTS) to become a Deaconess. Her mother, Isabella Coote was born in Aughnacloy, Ireland, in 1880. Isa had a desire to be a missionary in China from an early age, but was told she wasn’t strong enough. Perhaps their mother’s unfulfilled dream inspired the Davis girls toward ministry. Gwen’s father, William (Will) Arthur Davis, was born in London, England, in 1878. They were married in London on August 9, 1904 and sailed for Canada the next day, making their way to the west coast. Irene was born in 1906, and Lucy in 1908, just as Will was enrolled in theology at Westminster Hall, Vancouver. He took courses in the summer and was in a congregation year round. Bill was born February, 1911 and Winnifred was born April 18, 1912, in West Vancouver. Ordained as a Presbyterian minister, Will moved his family to Saskatchewan in 1913. They lived in Lemberg, Birch Hills, Scott, and Balgonie in Wyn’s growing up years.
Wyn’s older sister Irene went to the Training School in 1930, intending to become a Deaconess, but that was before meeting Harvey Inglis. He was at Emmanuel College preparing for ordination. Having to decide, at the point of her graduation in 1932, whether to marry or pursue a diaconal vocation as a single woman, she decided to marry, taking up instead the vocation of minister’s wife.
Wyn’s younger sister, Gwen, also went attended the UCTS. Gwen’s story is the opposite of Irene’s, as she entered the school in 1943 already engaged to a candidate for the ordained ministry, Doug McMurtry. Gwen did become a Deaconess and has the distinction of being the first married Deaconess, as she was allowed to continue in ministry after her marriage because her husband was overseas during the war. (Follow this link for the detailed story)
Wyn harboured a similar desire to be a Deaconess, so it must have been a bitter sweet experience for her to see her sisters go to Toronto. Obligations to help nurse her mother, and then support her widowed father, meant she had to set her desire aside.
In August 1946, Wyn’s father, Will, died suddenly. With his death, Wyn was free to pursue her wish to become a Deaconess. She enrolled immediately in the United Church Training School program and departed for Toronto, graduating in 1948. She served in three rural pastoral charges, Abbey, Saskatchewan and Vauxhall and Bowden, Alberta.
It was in Bowden that Wyn met John Henderson, a retired, bachelor farmer who was on the church board. They were married in 1962, when Wyn was 50 and she stepped down from the position as Bowden’s minister. For 2 years she served Cayley, Alberta on a supply basis, and then in Red Deer as retired supply in 1965. (Wyn in 1970) After that she devoted her energies to volunteer work in the community and church in Bowden. (Wyn in 1979) She enjoyed flowers and gardening.
Wyn, who was a widow, died at the age of 92 on July 19, 2004.
Written by Caryn Douglas, April 2012.