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When Linda Jean McHenry died at home on November 8, 2018, we lost a brilliant, beautiful, kind, and generous person. She was auspiciously named “Beneficial Good Lady” by her Buddhist teacher. Appreciative parents often referred to her as the “mother of Spanish Immersion” because of her pivotal role in bringing that program to Davis. Wine lovers knew her as the co-founder, viticulturalist, and general manager of McHenry Vineyard in Bonny Doon, California. She was well known and admired in the international community of paleoanthropologists who sometimes referred to her as “Linda McLinda” because of her work with her husband, Henry McHenry. Her lane-mates in Davis Aquatic Masters enjoyed her company for over three decades. She will always be “Mom” to Lindsay and Annalisa and “Grandma” to Arlo, Kyle and Arthur. She will always be known as one of the “Three Musketeers” by her childhood Orland friends, especially Ginny, Oz, Spike, Patti, and Mavis. She and her brother, Gregg Conway, remained close right up to the end. Her husband of 52 years finds no words to describe how profoundly he loves her.
Linda has deep roots in Davis. Her grandfather, Arthur Hendrickson, was a founding faculty member in Pomology at UCD. Her mother, Jean Hendrickson, grew up at 66 College Park, went to UCDavis, and met Linda’s father, Richard Conway, a fellow Aggie. They married at the Community Church just before Dick left to become a World War II fighter pilot in China. She was born Linda Jean Conway in Chico, CA, on May 11, 1946, soon after her war-hero father returned. She grew up on a spacious cattle ranch that her father managed near Orland, CA. She worked the cattle on horseback with her father, even though she did not care for pre-dawn wake-up.
She was a brilliant student. Even though she dreaded public speaking, she gallantly delivered the valedictorian address upon graduating from Orland High School. Her achievements in High School earned her a Regents Scholarship at UCD where she came in 1964. She majored in International Relations and studied Russian. She met Henry McHenry in Segundo Dinning Hall that fall and by spring of 1965 they were engaged. They wed in Orland on June 25, 1966. She and Henry lived in Solano Park as she finished her Bachelor of Arts and Henry earned his Master of Arts. They moved to Madison, Wisconsin and later to Cambridge, Massachusetts where she taught 5th grade. In 1971 she returned to Davis, assisted her husband in paleoanthropological research, and studied viticulture. She also researched the effectiveness of second language acquisition in children, invited experts and parents to share this research, and persuaded the Davis school board and administration to begin Spanish Immersion. Her two children and over a thousand Davis graduates are now bilingual.
Although raised in the richness of the Christian church, she found the wisdom, compassion and intelligence of the Buddhist path compelling with its emphasis on direct experience of the mind through meditation. In 1985 she and her husband joined a Davis group of meditators that later became the Davis Shambhala Meditation Center. For 12 years she and her husband coordinated and directed the group. She taught classes in meditation and the skillful means of Buddhist wisdom, but most importantly, she guided dozens of students on this path.
Linda was a great traveler with many voyages to Africa, Europe, and Asia where she assisted her husband in paleoanthropological research and helped expand the minds of her children.
In 2011 she was diagnosed with progressive primary aphasia (logopenic type). The brilliance of her mind slowly faded. Although she could not speak, in her last 20 days she clearly recognized the many family members and friends who came to express their love for her. Her warm smile will never be forgotten.
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