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Odell T. Henry, retired Bethlehem Steel worker active in the Masons and Bethel Church, dies

Odell T. Henry, remembered by his daughter as the "quintessential gentleman - the kind of man they don’t make anymore," served in Germany during the Berlin Airlift and enjoyed sharing stories with his friends at the Double T Diner after church.
Odell T. Henry, remembered by his daughter as the "quintessential gentleman - the kind of man they don’t make anymore," served in Germany during the Berlin Airlift and enjoyed sharing stories with his friends at the Double T Diner after church.

Odell Thomas Henry, a retired steelworker who served in the Berlin Airlift of the 1940s, suffered a heart attack Jan. 17 in his automobile. He was taken to Northwest Hospital Center where he died. The Gwynn Oak resident was 90.

Born in Vienna in Dorchester County, he was the son of Louis Rideout and Bessie Henry. He was the oldest of six children and was often called Henry.

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He graduated with distinction from Sinclair-Frederick Douglass High School. He received a full academic scholarship to Wilberforce University and to Carolina A & T, but decided to join the Army.

He served two tours in an infantry unit and was stationed in Germany. He participated in what is known as the Berlin Airlift during the city’s blockade by the Soviet Union.

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He later served at the Rhein-Main Air Base at Frankfurt. He received the Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal and Army Occupation Medal (Germany).

“From what I could see of my father in photographs, he enjoyed his time in Germany,” said his daughter, Priscilla Henry, a Baltimore resident.

After his military service he settled in Baltimore and joined the Bethlehem Steel Co. at Sparrows Point where he worked for 36 years. He retired as a mill foreman.

Through his sister, he met his future wife, Claudia Kirksey who was from Catherine, Alabama.

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Mr. Henry was an active member of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Maryland on Eutaw Place and was affiliated with the Eden Lodge #72 for more than 55 years.

He became a Master Mason on June 15, 1965 and was its Worship Master, Senior Warden, Junior Warden and treasurer. He was also secretary and lodge chaplain.

“Odell was strong and determined,” said a friend, James Joseph “JJ” Parker Jr. “He had military values. He was honorable, He tried to help others. He was loyal to his friends and family..”

Mr. Parker also said, ‘After church we would go to the Double T Diner for breakfast and he would tell his war stories or about his days at Bethlehem Steel. He’d tell of time he drove to Hollywood and stood at Hollywood and Vine but didn’t see any stars.”

Mr. Henry joined Bethel African American Episcopal Church on Druid Hill Avenue in 1981 and was a member of its mens ministry.

“My father was the quintessential gentleman - the kind of man they don’t make anymore,“ said his daughter. “He was kind, strong, polite and when he was around, you felt safe. He was an avid fisherman, hunter, and an extraordinary craftsman who enjoyed home improvement projects including building sheds, home furnishings and painting.”

“Odell was not known for sitting around all day,” his daughter Priscilla said. “He had an maintained an active lifestyle even up to the day of his passing. He worked out at the Veterans Administration gym. He dined out at restaurants and drove to the Eastern Shore to visit with family and friends. His family and friends were important to him.

His daughter Priscilla said, “Odell was well known and loved by many. He lived his life as he chose. He was a man of kindness, generosity and honesty. He was unpretentious and had a comforting presence. He was not a person to judge others, he accepted you as you are.”

A funeral will be held at 10:30 a.m. Feb. 2 at the March Life Tribute Center, 5616 Old Court Road in Randallstown.

In addition to his daughter, survivors include two sons, Carl Henry of Joppa and Benjamin Henry of Northeast; and five grandchildren. His wife of 62 years, a homemaker, died in 2019.

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