I met Henley on the same day I met my husband in June of 1993. We immediately became friends and I was always in awe of Henley. She was then the Executive Director of the RRCA and she was an empowering leader of that organization. She was always authentic and honest and a very loyal friend. She was the first person to check in with me, and I am sure all of her other friends, when I was facing challenges or losses in my life. I love what she called her “glass half full optimism” and I admired her courage and resiliency as she faced her own heartbreaking losses in her life.
In 2016, Henley and I shared some inspiring quotes with each other via email. It turns out that we both turned to the same quote when we were in need of inspiration:
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.
I know that I will turn to this quote and others as I process the loss of Henley. She was a friend to many and touched so many lives. I remember sharing my dream to create a therapeutic community for children touched by HIV/AIDS with Henley in 1995 and she enthusiastically supported my dream. I am deeply touched to learn that in lieu of flowers, Henley’s family is requesting that donations be made to Camp Dreamcatcher as a way to honor the memory of Henley. A gift in her memory will support our free therapeutic and educational programs for HIV/AIDS impacted youth.
— Patty Hillkirk
Executive Director, Camp Dreamcatcher
Henley Fant Gabeau died peacefully on November 7, 2018 in Bend, Oregon from colon cancer. Henley was born in Orangeburg, South Carolina on February 14, 1944. Henley was raised in Norfolk, Virginia and lived most of her life in Alexandria, Virginia and Middlebrook, Virginia.
Henley touched the lives of many people with her thoughtful gestures and considered, handwritten messages. She hated being the center of attention, but loved networking and creating magical connections between people she knew could help each other.
The turning point in Henley’s life was when she began running at age thirty. She discovered she had talent as a runner, and the running made her self-confidence blossom. Henley was a founder and charter member of the first women’s-only running club in the Washington DC area, the Washington RunHers. Henley spent many years volunteering for the Road Runners Club of Amerca, was elected as first woman President of the RRCA in 1986 and served as its first paid Executive Director from 1990 until her retirement in 2001. In that capacity she championed women’s running safety programs and pushed for the inclusion of the women’s marathon in the Olympics. Always, she believed in the power of running at the grassroots level. Everyone could be a runner, she believed.
Henley spent many happy retirement years living on her farm in Middlebrook, Virginia. She was a ‘working’ retiree, spending numerous volunteer hours supporting local causes and human beings. She loved her town and poured her heart into the development of the Middlebrook General Store, Ruritan Club, the Middlebrook Horse Show and regional conservation programs. Henley became an EMT and volunteered in several capacities to support the Middlebrook Volunteer Fire Department.
Henley became an accomplished horsewoman later in life. She won several top awards on her beloved Saddlebred horse, Magnolia Morning. Henley never met a dog she didn’t love…she will certainly meet her corgis, rottweilers, and horses in heaven.
Henley was passionate about the political process. She was a staunch Democrat, but loved her Republican and Independent friends just as much. One of her final goals was to vote in the midterms before her death. She did.
Henley is survived by her older daughter Robin (Roughton) Judice and and son-in-law Ross Judice, of Bend, Oregon, and her sister, Elizabeth Fant of Belton, South Carolina. Henley was preceded in death by her precious younger daughter Lucy Roughton Miller and her parents, Agnes Adele Watson Fant and George Albert Fant.
A memorial service to honor Henley’s life will be held on Saturday, November 17 at 11:00 AM at Bethel Presbyterian Church 563 Bethel Green Road, Staunton, Virginia 24401. A reception to share Henley memories will follow in the Fellowship Hall.
In lieu of flowers, you may honor Henley with a contribution to Camp Dreamcatcher, 148 West State Street, Suite 104, Kennett Square, PA 19348. Or use the Donate button below: