When attending a trade show there’s always a list of industry colleagues people want to visit, even if it’s just to catch up on personal matters. Lecil Henderson, founder of The Henderson Collection by Lecil, was a “must see” for many in the gem and jewelry industry. Sadly, those familiar booth visits with Lecil, are no longer. He died suddenly of a heart attack on Sunday, November 22. He was 62.
He was more than an innovative designer and industry advocate. More importantly, Lecil was a loving and dedicated son, husband and father. He was also a man of faith, the consummate gentleman, and an inherently good man that made his personal ethics his business ethics.
Lecil’s story begins on June 11, 1958. He was born to Lecil and Ruth Henderson in Charlotte, NC. As a young boy, he attended Charlotte County Day School, a private K-12 school. Like many in the industry, Lecil’s interest in gems and jewelry came from his father Lecil, Sr., who was a national account rep for an old New England company.
As the story goes, young Lecil was “allowed” to carry his father’s sample bags when assisting Lecil, Sr. during the high school and college years, according to Ann Gieser, vice president of Henderson Collection for 26 years.
Lecil’s original career plan was to help his father after he graduated from college and then return to Winston-Salem-based Wake Forest University to pursue a law degree. When on the road with his father, Lecil found that he liked the jewelry industry and enjoyed working with the people in it.
When his father retired young Lecil took over his position with the company. Content with the work, Lecil eventually realized he was advancing very familiar product to retailers in the region. The impetus for creating his company was a deep-seated desire to offer retail jewelers and their customers something completely different.
As practical as he was passionate, Lecil started his venture in 1990 the smart way – knowledge first, applying what he learned, making incremental steps, and then gaining experience by trial and error to get some initial traction of his own making.
“Lecil’s first jewelry creations were 14K and 18K bracelets and electroform earrings,” says Ann. “He was known as the ‘earring man.’ For many years this is what Lecil was known for in the industry. His mother received his first electroform pair of earrings.”
Lecil was not only a family man to his wife, two sons and daughter, he was also a dedicated, loyal and loving son to his parents. Creating a bracelet fitting for his mother, a country woman who grew up on a farm, kicked off Lecil’s creative track for what became his signature bangles.
She asked Lecil to make jewelry that was “created equal.” Lecil’s mother had large wrists and his wife Kathy had slender wrists. He went to work with the women he loved most in life and developed the Euro-Flex bangle bracelet design.
“Inspiration from the two leading ladies in his life, his mom and his wife,” says Ann. “That inspiration led to more designs and the creation of designs that include not only bangle bracelets but necklaces, earrings, pendants and rings.”
Having to care for and feed his family, in good times and lean ones, Lecil enjoyed making high-end 18K bangles and jewelry. But he also knew that he had to offer affordable luxury with gold and enamel bracelets and jewelry as well as lines fashioned in sterling silver.
Over the decades he created hundreds of unique designs for every walk of life. But the true love of his jewelry creations was the signature Henderson bangles. Most days he wore a Luca Lorenzini men’s collection bracelet and his Swiss watch. That was it.
Perhaps the most telling quality Lecil processed was his fondness for working with small mom-and-pop retailers. Although Lecil was considered a high-end, fine jewelry designer privy to exhibit at the industry’s most exclusive trade shows, Lecil was more inclusive in the clients he called customers and friends.
Creating jewelry came naturally for Lecil. But starting and maintaining his business was hard work. Many in the industry knew him as a “kind man,” but also one of the “hardest working,” according to Ann, quoting many colleagues.
Lecil is survived by his wife Kathy, their sons William and Andrew and daughter Elizabeth. Lecil was a creative force in many ways, but he always viewed his family as his greatest creation.
“My greatest accomplishment is my family,” said Lecil, according to Ann. “Kathy and I have three adult children who are making their mark on the world. They each have very different career paths but they are always willing to help those in need. Kathy and I are most happy about the adults they have become.”
Lecil enjoyed family trips to North Carolina’s mountains and the beaches. He loved getaways with his wife, relaxing games of golf with his sons and skiing with his daughter. He wasn’t just active in the industry, Lecil also made time for community agencies, charities and his church.
Lecil died on the eve of the holiday season. One of his passions in life was advocating for the homeless. A fitting seasonal quote to remember Lecil by, given his kindness for those in need and his penchant for jewelry creations: “No homeless jewelry this Christmas.”
“I loved hearing him say that,” says Ann.
For those who would like to make a donation to A Child’s Place (a charity for homeless children) in Lecil’s honor, please visit the charity’s website at AChildsPlace.org.