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Alumni Stories: Gerry "Dumper" Henson

Posted:
Monday, June 10, 2024

I started at WWU in the fall of 1966...a 21 year old freshman...and I was a varsity wrestler for the '67 fall and '68 winter qtrs.  At that time I was wrestling in the 175 lb class and didn't have to do anything to make weight.  The two guys I was competing against in that class were good and I hadn't wrestled since I graduated Auburn High School in '63 so I wasn't seeing a lot of time wrestling in meets and was frustrated.

Anyway, the coach and I did not get along and I only wrestled the one season.  My girl friend at the time knew Larry Willman and suggested, in the spring of '67, that I talk to him and she introduced us.  Larry and I chatted a couple of times and he convinced me to go out and give rugby a try.  I wasn't an instant success at rugby but there was a group of us in Auburn that played touch football (it was actually tackle) most fall weekends in the 4 years before I decided to further my education, so I was familiar with contact, was really fast and had good hands...and I fit right in with the character of Rugby...and I liked beer. So for me and Rugby, the rest is history.

Left to right: Gerry “Dumper” Henson, Ken “Keno” Miller, Al Needler and Larry Wilman

That is a pretty funny photo...Me, with my afro, Milt, Needler, and Willman, but pretty special. It looks like it was taken on that field behind Carver Gym and the tennis courts in the fall of '67 or the spring of '68, but I can't be sure.

The pic is a reminder of the great friendships that develop through the game.  Ken Miller and I ended up being roommates for years, Al Needler got me an introduction, and a job, to the folks at Secret Harbor Farms in Anacortes, and Larry Willman, was, well, Larry.  An incredible young man from a small town, Naches, in Eastern Washington, with a great gift of gab.

Both Al and Larry have passed and I was honored to be asked to speak at Larry's memorial after his passing.  I miss them both, as they started me down a life's road full of experiences, and people, and places, I would never have met or seen, that would never have enjoyed had I not taken Larry's invitation to "give rugby a try"!  Truly life changing and a dream, really.

I could never give back to rugby all that it has given me.

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