Henk retires from Extension Service

Debra Henk (left) receives a Certificate of Appreciation from the University of Missouri’s Vice-Chancellor’s office for her tenure with the Missouri Extension. Making the presentation is Janet Kline, the extension’s regional director. Kline was involve with the local council’s hiring of Henk as the 4H Youth Specialist some 16 1/2 years ago

Although Debra Henk’s official last day in the office is Dec. 15, she had enough vacation days left that enabled her to say goodbye to her associates at the Iron County Extension office in a get-together on Oct. 13.

For 16 1/2 years, Henk has been the 4H Youth Specialist for Iron, Reynolds and Shannon counties. In 2003, she also took on the duties of the County Program Director.

“I’ve been painting and I’m ready to tear into the bedroom,” she said, when contacted at home by telephone. By “tear into,” she means continuing the rehab work she has been doing on her home, built in 1818.  

“This is the longest I’ve ever had a job and the longest I’ve ever lived in one place,” said the Pennsylvania native. She grew up “outside of Chicago,” got married and then she and her ex- husband “moved all over the place.”

Before she came to The Valley, she was working as a tour guide and interpreter at a State Park in Minnesota.

But with her Forestry Degree from Southern Illinois University and her Vocational Agriculture Masters degree from Morehead State University in Kentucky, she decided to start looking for a job around Cape Girardeau, where some of her family lived.

She was offered jobs in both New Madrid and in Iron County, but the scenery of the area won out.

With the help of “some excellent volunteers” she got the local 4H group up and running (and clubs both in Reynolds and Shannon counties, too).

“I’m most proud of the 4H Clubs,” she said. “I’ll miss the kids.”

However, she will spend more time with her two granddaughters, Sophia and Isabella. The house rehab will continue and she loves gardening. 

Also to take up her time are her beloved dogs - Malarkey, Stella, and Trouble, her pet goats, Black and Decker, and Sassy the cat.

She plans to “stay out of the way” of the new specialist coming in to take her place, whenever that is decided, but sooner or later - well, she misses the kids.

“I can’t volunteer until I’m officially retired, so after the first of the year, I’ll go back and work with the kids some.”