Lee Henderson was excited about joining the Minnesota Orchestra on its upcoming historic trip to Cuba from May 13-17.
Henderson and his wife, Polly, attended an orientation meeting last Tuesday for those going on the tour — both members of the orchestra and people traveling as cultural ambassadors to Havana.
Henderson died two days later — last Thursday — after he suffered a heart attack upon returning to his Minneapolis home from a morning run. He was 59.
Throughout the Minnesota Orchestra lockout of 2012-14, Henderson, a Minneapolis attorney, was a remarkable voice of tough reasoning, and he became a respected leader among citizens who were deeply concerned about the orchestra's future.
Henderson accepted the notion that there were financial pressures on the orchestra's budget, and he also accepted the notion that the musicians deserved better than what was being offered during most of the negotiations.
He wrote several op-ed pieces for the Star Tribune as he tried to steer a middle course aimed at solving the crisis, rather than posturing.
"While much of the debate has been around economics, what is really at the heart of this dispute is the vision for the future — an orchestra reduced in stature or one that continues to aspire to be among the best in the world," he wrote in a November 2013 commentary that tried to push the ball forward.
Henderson's advocacy for the orchestra did not end with the 2014 contract settlement.
Last summer, he was a key part of a group assembled to raise $290,000 for the orchestra. He and Polly also regularly attended concerts. So important was Henderson's work and his presence that it seemed a surprise he was not named to the board of directors last December.
"Lee Henderson was a great music lover and an outstanding voice in support of the Minnesota Orchestra who was willing to extend himself in so many ways on behalf of the Orchestra," said the orchestra's president and CEO, Kevin Smith, in a statement. "We are so profoundly sorry to hear of his untimely passing and, on behalf of the entire Orchestra family, we offer our heartfelt condolences to his family."
In his day job, Henderson was a shareholder in the law firm of Hessian & McKasy. He grew up in Madison, Wis., where he met Polly in the high school band. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin law school, he attended the National Law Center at George Washington University and interned for the Carter administration. He and his wife moved to Minneapolis in 1980.
Henderson was also active at Minnehaha Academy, where his three daughters attended school and graduated. His middle daughter, Laura, is an attorney who worked with her father at Hessian & McKasy.
At the time of his death, Henderson was church council president at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in south Minneapolis and an executive committee member for the American Symphonic Advocacy Project. He and Polly often traveled and would make a point to take in classical concerts by other orchestras.
He was also a big basketball fan, particularly of the Minnesota Lynx.
In addition to his wife, Henderson is survived by daughters Kati, Laura and Mari; two granddaughters; brothers Larry and Jim Henderson and his mother-in-law Carolyn Ekeberg.
Services are at 10 a.m. Thursday at Bethlehem Lutheran, 4100 Lyndale Av. S.