Geraldine Henson Birdsbill
The Lord called a loving Grandma home after more than 100 years on March 8, 2023. Mrs. Geraldine Hester Henson Birdsbill passed away at home in Albuquerque, NM from complications of old age and bone cancer. She was just two days shy of her 104th Birthday.
Geraldine was born at home in Claremore, OK on March 10, 1919 to parents George Lee Henson and Mary Martha “Florence” Webb Henson. An enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, her father George, Uncle Andrew, Aunt Anna and Grandmother Lorena arrived on the very last Trail of Tears from the Cherokee Nation East to the Cherokee Nation West, arriving by train from North Carolina to the Indian Territory in 1881 in Owasso, OK. George and Aunt Anna Henson subsequently attended the Cherokee Male and Female Seminaries. This was the last of the Cherokee Removals authorized and paid for by the Federal Government.
Geraldine graduated from Claremore High School in 1936 where she played basketball with the Claremore Zebras. Gerry was known for organizing sports among the neighboring Claremore Indian children including Josephine Deal and Laura Quetone, who recommended that she go to the Haskell Indian Institute in Lawrence, KS. She was surprised by the suggestion, but applied and was accepted at the young age of 17. At age 18, she received an Associate’s degree in business from the Haskell Indian Institute. She met her husband Lawrence “Larry” Birdsbill at Haskell but she was too shy to date during college.
After graduation from Haskell, she served in the Indian Service (now Bureau of Indian Affairs) in Nespelem, WA (Colville Agency), Potawatomi Agency in KS, and Window Rock, AZ (Navajo). It was in Window Rock, where she remet Larry Birdsbill who asked her to a basketball game and began a courtship with her. They had a civil wedding on February 4, 1939 in Gallup, NM and were remarried in a Catholic ceremony at St. Michael’s Catholic Church in St Michael, AZ. Larry, deceased in 2001, was a Hidatsa/Mandan Indian enrolled in the Mandan Hidatsa and Arikara Nation of Fort Berthold, ND. Gerry was adopted into the Knife Clan of the Hidatsa Tribe.
After serving in the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the family moved to Tulsa, OK where both worked for the US Army Corps of Engineers. During WWII, Larry was drafted and served as a Paymaster in the Army Air Corps stationed at Fort Yuma, AZ and Fort McCoy, Tomah, WI. During the Korean War, he served overseas in Okinawa. The two eventually settled in Albuquerque, NM. Geraldine then worked as a civilian secretary for the US Air Force at Kirtland AFB, NM retiring in July of 1974. After retirement, Larry and Gerry built a summer home on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, continuing to spend the rest of their time in Albuquerque. She and Lawrence gave land to the Catholic Church to build the new St. Anthony’s Earthlodge Church in Mandaree on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation.
Gerry was an avid member of several military and social clubs including: American Legion Ladies Auxiliary Post 300 in New Town, ND, VFW Post 401 in Albuquerque, NM, Cherokee Club of NM, Haskell Club of NM, VFW Auxiliary, the Military Order of the Cooties Auxiliary, the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Sooner Club of NM. She volunteered at the Albuquerque VA Hospital for over 50 years and received an award from the Albuquerque Mayor for this service.
Gerry was best known for her infectious laughter, love of the Oklahoma Sooners, love for her Indian people, and her care of Veterans and animals. She also supported numerous family members during hard times. Gerry taught her family to laugh, to serve God country and others, to seek adventure, and to love animals.
Gerry is survived by her daughter, Jerry Ruth Birdsbill Ford and husband Col James Ford (USAF Ret) of Albuquerque, NM; daughter Deanna Birdsbill Lubarsky of Albuquerque, NM; son Dean Patrick Birdsbill of New Town, ND; honorary sons Timothy Dippold Sr. and Michael Hackett of Albuquerque, NM; honorary daughters Diann Reed Williams of AZ and Iris Drew of Albuquerque, NM; grandchildren Nicole Morrell Vanacore of Aurora, CO; Col Rebecca Anne Ford Burbridge (USAF Reserves) and husband Col Dean Burbridge (USA Ret) of Aiea, HI; Sarah Ford Rich and husband Michael “David” Rich of Fort Worth, TX; Larissa Marie Birdsbill Ford of Fort Worth, TX; Deann Birdsbill and Crystal Smith of Fort Berthold, ND; and eleven great-grandchildren: Alexander Vanacore, Andrew J. Vanacore; Suzann Marie Brewer Birdsbill; Nalani Beaulieu; Abidah Hisi Knight; Jacklyn Renae Crowe; Shaun Maverick Crowe; Austin Mathew Crowe; Marie Geraldine Rich; Lourdes Elizabeth “Ellie” Rich; and James Daniel “J.D.” Rich.
She is also survived by her nieces Sarah Crazythunder and husband Bill Collier of Grove, OK; Karen Crazythunder of Claremore, OK; Brenda Crazythunder of Claremore, OK; nephew Glen Henson Jr., of Claremore OK; grandnieces Nancy Robertson of Sand Springs, OK; Rebecca Robertson, of Grove, OK; grandnephews Buddy Robertson, Jr., of Claremore, OK and Nelson Robertson of Edmond, OK; and cousins Maxine Webb Gibson and Shirley Webb Vines; and Jerry Williams and Harris families from North Carolina.
In addition, she is also survived by many relatives of Fort Berthold ND including, but not limited to, grandchildren: Marilyn Youngbird, Sara Youngbird, Joyce Satermo Leigh, Barbara Mayo, Lisa Satermo, Scotty Satermo, Michael & Mary Baker Barthelemy, Paige & Joan Baker, Freddy Baker, Gerard Baker, Colleen Birdsbill, Debbie Danks, John Danks, Kayla Danks, Delphine Ann Danks, Caroline Danks, Edward Hall, Jr., Eddie Hall III, Ronald Hall, Pem Hall, Marty Hall, Jeffry Hall and Donna Hall, Diane Johnson, Royce Jackson, Jerome Dancing Bull, Ziggy & Kate Jackson, Bonnie & Hollis Blake, Beatrice & Gabe Fettig, Clarine Dancing Bull, Iris Jackson, Jackie Morsette, Patty, Kay & Jeanne Baker; and many other grandchildren at Fort Berthold.
She was predeceased by her paternal grandparents Joseph Standing Wolf, Cherokee Nation East, and wife Lorena (Reny) Iany Henson Rivett, Cherokee Nation West; her maternal grandparents Tennessee Confederate Civil War Veteran Aaron James Webb and wife Sarah Jane Harris Webb; her parents George Lee Henson and Mary Martha “Florence” (Webb) Henson; her in-laws Anthony and Plain House Birdsbill, uncles John Webb, James “Mutt” Webb, Robert E. Lee “Ty” Webb, and Jeff Webb, all Indian Territory Pioneers; her husband of 63 years MSgt Lawrence Birdsbill (USAF Ret); Claremore siblings Geneva “Sis” McGraw, Gordon “Doc” Henson, Guy Henson, Guinn Henson, Glen “Buddy” Henson Sr., and George “Pete” Henson of Claremore, OK; Cherokee sister Juanita Howe; grandchildren Renee Birdsbill; Anthony Dean Birdsbill; Dusty Corn of Wisconsin, and Jimmy Bluestone of Fort Berthold, and an adopted Pima daughter Carol Smalley Bradley; a foster child she helped raise who was named for them, Jerry Lawrence Grinnell; son-in-law Michael Lubarsky; nieces Blanche Robertson, Jerry Alice and Susie McGraw all of Claremore; nephew Larry McGraw of Claremore, OK; Fort Berthold nieces Delphine Young Bird Hall; Theresa Young Bird Danks; Neva Dancing Bull Satermo; Rosemarie Mandan and Alfreda Mandan; Tillie Walker and Reba Walker; and grandnephew Christopher Ronnie Crazythunder of Albuquerque, NM.
The family would like to thank everyone including all of family and our neighbors who helped visit and care for her in her old age. God bless you and keep laughing!
Services: Geraldine will be buried in Claremore, OK near her parents. Geraldine’s granddaughter Connie Fox Twins will serve as Senior Pall Bearer. Viewing will be held on Thursday, March 16, 2023 at the MMS-Payne Funeral Home and Cremation Service, 102 W. 5th Street, Claremore, OK 74017, (918) 341-2487, from 4-7pm, and Rosary at 7pm, followed by a light meal and “Irish Wake Toast” at the Banquet Hall in the Hampton Inn and Suites, Claremore, OK. The Funeral Mass will be held on March 17, 2023 at 10:00 a.m. at St. Cecilia’s Roman Catholic Church, 1304 N. Dorothy, Claremore, OK 74017 (918) 341-2343 with Reverend Father Sylvanus Amaobi officiating. A Committal Ceremony will immediately follow at the Woodlawn Cemetery, 801 S. Normal, Claremore, OK (918) 341-9498. After the burial, the family will host a party at St. Cecilia’s Parish Hall (catered by her nephew Buddy’s Grill) in Claremore at approximately 1:00 p.m.
To reach the family, please contact daughters Jerry Ruth Birdsbill Ford and Deanna Lubarsky at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Flowers and cards may be sent to the Funeral Home in Claremore, OK. Checks may be made to the Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence Kansas in honor of Geraldine Henson Birdsbill Class of 1937 https://www.haskellfoundation.org/donate/ The family will hold a reception on a date TBD at the VFW Post 401 located in Albuquerque, NM.