Tamika Mendoza holds a photo of her late grandmother Annie...

Tamika Mendoza holds a photo of her late grandmother Annie Henry. Mendoza is flanked by her mother Carmen Henry Wilkinson, left, and her husband Jasen Mendoza. Far left is Tamika's daughter, Gabrielle. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa Loarca

Annie Henry was raised in the Jim Crow South and later served in the segregated U.S. military. After she moved to Gordon Heights in 1946, she committed herself to helping local youth and was the longest-serving employee of her local fire department. In honor of the 104-year-old's longtime service, Brookhaven Town officials said this week they hope to memorialize Henry, who died Jan. 30, with a plaque or monument.

Henry was recognized for her volunteer service in 2020 when the Brookhaven Town board honored her with a proclamation for her life of service.

"She is the American story in a nutshell," said Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine, adding he will discuss memorialization options with Henry’s family before he or town board members make an official proposal. "The world will certainly be a different place without her and her good deeds," he said.

Annie Henry during her time in the military. Henry, who...

Annie Henry during her time in the military. Henry, who devoted herself to volunteer service after she was discharged from the military and moved to Gordon Heights, died Jan. 30. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa Loarca

Henry joined the U.S. Women’s Army Corps as a technician soon after the U.S. War Department allowed Black women to join the military in the early '40s. She met her husband, Vincent, while enlisted. After the couple was discharged, they moved to Long Island and Henry threw herself into community work. She served as the Gordon Heights Fire Department secretary-treasurer for more than 30 years, led the Faith Baptist Church’s after-school program, mentored Suffolk County youth and worked as a local school district food service employee, her daughter Carmen Henry Wilkinson of Gordon Heights said.

"She was very generous," said Henry Wilkinson, 67, adding that nearly a dozen former students reached out after her mother's death and recalled stories of her sharing necessities with children who couldn’t afford them.

Henry's granddaughter Tamika Mendoza, 44, of Port Jefferson recalled Henry as a "firecracker."

She called Henry "the community’s grandmother" and said Henry’s childhood surrounded by immense poverty was the catalyst to her desire to help children.

Henry, who received a certificate honoring her 100th birthday from the White House and a Gordon Heights community parade when she turned 103, was born Aug. 2, 1917, in Talladega, Alabama. After high school, she attended Talladega College, Alabama's oldest private historically Black college.

While she faced racism during her life, especially when living in the segregated South, Henry rarely complained and instead focused on sharing stories of kindness, her granddaughter said. She recalled that while taking a typing class, the instructor said Henry and other Black students would be required to type more words per minute than their white classmates. A white student stood up to the teacher for Henry. Still, Henry took on the challenge and outperformed the class, which she wore as a "badge of honor," Mendoza said.

"That simple gesture of kindness, when you see that something is wrong, that somebody is going to step up to defend you," that memory, Mendoza said, followed Henry through her life and encouraged her to stand up for others.

Henry's family is raising money for the funeral through GoFundMe. The family will hold a celebration of her life Tuesday from 6 to 9 p.m. at O. B. Davis Funeral Home in Port Jefferson Station.

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