Dr. Francis (Frank) H. Hendrickson passed away peacefully at his home in Garland, Texas
on Tuesday January 3, 2023. Born in Chester, Pennsylvania on April 28, 1927 to parents
Frank L. Hendrickson and Marlea (Soles) Hendrickson. The early death of Frank’s mother
when he was just three years old was to have a profound impact on young Frank’s life.
With his sisters Helen and Betty placed with other family members, Frank L. and young
‘Franny’ went to live in New Jersey with friends Elwood and Emma Hutchinson. When
Frank L. Remarried the Hutchinsons became Franny’s permanent foster family. He very
much looked up to his elder foster brother Ed; they remained close throughout their lives.
One effect of the tragic circumstances of young Frank’s life was his turn to a deep and
abiding faith, and he became an active churchgoer at an early age. At age fourteen he was
baptized into First Baptist Church Pedricktown, NJ. This church was to play an important
role in Frank’s life for decades to come. Throughout the Hendrickson family’s service in
Congo/Zaire, First Baptist Church was their home church. First Baptist provided support
including the gifting of a small electrical generator that Frank used to create a lighted study
hall for young Congolese secondary school students.
After graduating from Penns Grove High School, Frank was inducted into the United States
Army in July 1945 and was duly shipped overseas to Europe, where he served in the Army
of Occupation in Vienna, Austria. He received the World War II Victory Medal and the Army
of Occupation Medal before earning an Honorable Discharge in March 1947.
Returning to civilian life, Frank took advantage of his G.I. Bill benefits to earn a B.A. from
Montclair State Teachers College (NJ) in 1951; from there he went on to earn an M.A. from
Teachers College, Columbia University in 1954 and Ed.D. from Columbia in 1964.
Frank used the intervening decade interim to gain valuable administrative and teaching
experience. From 1955-1957 Frank served as principal at the Dallas Christian Grade
School. It was during these years that Frank met the love of his life Phyllis (née Martin).
They were married on August 23, 1957. The young couple moved to Winston-Salem, NC
where Frank served as principal of the Salem Baptist Day School. It was here that eldest
son Bruce was born July 12, 1958. The Hendrickson family returned to Dallas where Ralph
Gregory was born June 17, 1960. Returning to Frank’s New Jersey roots, he next took a
job teaching at Penns Grove High School while working on his doctoral dissertation.
In the Cold War era of the “New Frontier” Frank felt a call to express his faith by taking his
professional training to underserved newly independent countries in dire need of
administrative expertise as they emerged from decades of colonialism. In many corners of
the world arbitrary constraining boundaries had been placed on indigenous nationals.
Frank was eager to demonstrate by example and encouragement that in a post colonial
world every student and faculty member could aspire to a doctorate. In May 1963 Frank
and Phyllis were appointed to the American Baptist Foreign Missions Society ABFMS and
were assigned to the Democratic Republic of Congo (later Zaire), a newly independent
country where Frank’s administrative and teaching expertise were sorely needed (at
independence in 1960 there were a few dozen university graduates in a country the size of
The Hendricksons arrived in Congo in the summer of 1965 after a year spent in Brussels
learning French. They were stationed at Milundu Secondary School at Vanga in rural Kwilu
Province, which was then in the throes of the Marxist Mulele Rebellion. Congo was
considered a Cold War ‘hot spot’ and the station at Vanga/Milundu presented a test case
for a new missiology in post conflict peacebuilding. Missionaries who had
been evacuated now began to return to find our station intact and clinics, hospitals, and
schools were ready to reopen. Local Customary chiefs and elders made the decision that
the social services offered by Catholic and Protestant missions offered the greater
prospects for future generations of Congolese. This “buy in” by local leaders was crucial to
what today we call post conflict peacebuilding.
Upon completion of their first overseas term in 1969, the Hendrickson family spent a year
at the University of Wisconsin, Madison where Frank and Phyllis both took courses. It was
in early 1970 that daughter Kym arrived to complete the family after a thorough adoption
process. Frank requested an extended leave of absence from ABFMS to take up a
professorship at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, OK where during his two years there he
served as student teaching coordinator with local public schools.
In 1972 the Hendricksons returned to the DRC (which had been renamed Zaire) to take on
a new challenge at Institute Nsona Mpangu in today’s Kongo-Central Province. For years
anti-European resentments in the Province led to student unrest, making the school difficult
to operate. Student food riots had led to the shutdown of the school cafeteria; students
living on campus were given a weekly allowance to prepare their own meals. Under the
prevailing circumstances students could not academically perform successfully given the
rigorous Math/Physics/Pedagogy curriculum. Teacher shortages exacerbated morale
problems among students and faculty alike. Frank believed restoring the school food
service operation was critical to turning the school around. The addition of American Peace
Corps volunteers helped fill the teacher shortage; their ability to interact with Congolese
faculty colleagues and students helped ease tensions and raised morale. Belgian
Professor Armand Marechal managed to repair the station’s hydroelectric plant -
demonstrating again the relationship between electricity, good lighting, and academic
performance. In 1974 after two years Frank was privileged to turn the school over to
General-Director Mankenda and the Hendrickson family returned to the United States.
Once back in Tulsa, Oklahoma turned to public school administration, serving as principal
in the newly opened Boevers Elementary School in the Union School District. In 1977 an
opportunity presented with the Southern Baptist Convention IMB for Frank to take a
position as Headmaster at Mombasa Baptist High School in Kenya. The Hendricksons left
Mombasa in 1982 after Frank added a junior college to the secondary school.
Back in the United States Frank served as principal at the Valley View Christian High
School in Dublin, California for two years before returning to Oklahoma where he took a
position as superintendent at Emmanuel Christian School in Broken Arrow. In 1988 Frank
and Phyllis came full circle by returning to the Dallas Metroplex, where Frank finished his
teaching career at David W. Carter High School before officially retiring in 1993.
Retirement proved but a prelude to a new chapter in the Hendrickson family saga; Frank
and Phyllis became senior missionary volunteers. In 1995-1996 they returned to Mombasa,
Kenya where they served as administrators at the Lighthouse for Christ Eye Centre, an
interdenominational Opthalmology clinic. Their final assignment from 1998-2003 took them
to Bangkok, Thailand as SBC volunteers, where they taught ESL to municipal civil servants
and were active at the Baptist Student Center.
Frank was preceded in death by his lifelong partner, wife Phyllis, in 2015, and his youngest
son, Ralph Gregory, in 2021. He is survived by his sister Betty Hutchinson, eldest son
Bruce (Karen) Hendrickson, and daughter Kym (Shane) Skiles, as well as three
grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
Frank and Phyllis will be reunited on Wednesday February 8, 2023 at the Dallas-Fort Worth
National Cemetery 2000 Mountain Creek Pkwy Dallas, Texas 75211 at 1:15 pm. Guests
are asked to arrive early and will be directed to the proper line to the niche where their
remains will be placed together, in death as in life. “Blessed are the peacebuilders, for they
shall be called children of God.” We celebrate two lives well lived.