Daisy Henderson

Daisy Henderson, 1922.

February was always the best month of Daisy Henderson’s short life. The other months weren’t quite so kind.

Born in Mendocino on February 18, 1899, Daisy was the middle child and only daughter of James Albert and Daisy Gregor Henderson. She and her brothers attended the Mendocino Grammar and High Schools. Growing up, Daisy performed in school plays, sang solos at the Baptist Church on Ukiah Street, attended masked balls, and accompanied others on her ukulele at evening performances.

In September 1914, the Henderson family suffered a tragic loss. Daisy’s 20-year-old brother was instantly killed by the accidental discharge of his pistol while he was cleaning the gun. His mother, who was reading at the dining room table nearby, witnessed the accident. The family was heart-broken.

In 1918, Daisy and her younger brothers, Armond and John, moved with their parents to Oakland. Daisy’s eldest brother Gilbert remained in Mendocino with his wife and two children, Ethel and Delbert.

In Oakland, Daisy worked as an elevator operator and continued to practice her entertainment skills, joining the local theatrical company and competing in dancing contests and beauty pageants. In February 1922, she signed a contract with the Stewart Production Company to play the ingénue in the company’s next production, “Spanish Gold.” The Beacon also described another event, “The Stewart Motion Picture Co., under the auspices of the Chamber of Commerce, are staging a drama at the Municipal Auditorium February 20. The benefits are to go to the unemployed. While the drama is being staged, movies will be taken of it. The Company is doing this to show the public just how it is done. Miss Henderson will sing at the matinee performance during the changing of one of the scenes.”

In August, Daisy’s father was nearly killed when the scaffolding he was working on collapsed. Within a year, her parents had moved back to Mendocino, as her father was no longer able to work as a carpenter.

Meanwhile, Daisy continued her acting career, joining, “a six months’ tour on the Orpheum circuit as one of the principals in the Marx Bros act.” The Beacon also recounted her on-screen roles under her stage name, Sonny Henderson, “She will be remembered for her clever comedy role in ‘Jimmy Valentine,’ also for her remarkable dramatic portrayal of the mother in the ‘Melting Pot.’”

On February 21, 1925, Daisy’s parents threw her an engagement supper and shower at their Mendocino home. Her fiancé, Frank Mason of Reno, Nevada, was delayed by a storm and didn’t arrive until the following morning. The first hint of tragedy appeared in the engagement announcement, as the Beacon noted that Daisy was “convalescent after an illness,” but the announcement ended on a positive note, “No definite date has been set for the wedding, but from all indications, Al Henderson’s daughter will be a March bride.”

Indeed, a marriage license was issued to Frank and Daisy in March, and the wedding occurred in April at the Mendocino Presbyterian Church manse. The marriage doesn’t appear to have lasted, though; the next mention of Daisy in the Beacon was in September, when “Miss Daisy Henderson,” 26 years of age, passed away at her parents’ home after a long battle with tuberculosis.

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