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Dr. Henness Photos & Memories

This poem was excerpted and sent to me by a veterinarian after the loss of a beloved dog. I, in turn, sent it to Anita after her loss of a special opossum friend. She loved the poem, and used it frequently to comfort others.
-Paula
To Those I Love
If I should ever leave you whom I love to go along the Silent Way,
Grieve not, nor speak of me with tears,
But laugh and talk of me as if I were beside you there.
(I'd come-I'd come, could I but find a way!
But would not tears and grief be barriers?)
And when you hear a song or see a bird I loved,
Please do not let the thought of me be sad...
For I am loving you just as I always have...
You were so good to me!
There are so many things I wanted still to do-
So many things to say to you...
Remember that I did not fear...
It was just leaving you that was so hard to face...
We cannot see Beyond...
But this I know:
I loved you so- 'twas heaven here with you.

Isla Paschal Richardson


The world's true heroes are the people who dedicate their lives to helping beings who need help. In my opinion, Anita was one of the world's great heroes. She gave everything she had to help a wonderful creature usually overlooked by the rest of society. I will never forget her, and the help she gave me and Patty O'Possum.

-Ken Frankel


 Once I got through my first phone call with Anita, I knew everything would be fine between us. Right after my heartbeat returned to normal and my knees stopped knocking together!  The first time I received a hand-written note from her, it was like I had been conferred with a letter from God.  While she would no doubt cringe to hear it, she was like a god for me and my little Monster Veronica, the first op I ever rehabbed, and the beginning of a lifelong love affair with another species.  We went on to co-author a paper about Dermal Septic Necrosis which was presented at rehab conferences and published.  I feel as though that is the crowning achievement of my life.  The loss of Dr. Anita was crushing even in the preparation for what was, by her own words, inevitable.  Anita, there will never be another like you, but by your grace, every opossum saved in rehab will live on as your legacy.  I miss you and love you.

 - M. Washington


When I first met Anita she was living where she was taking care of opossums, in a business complex.  I was with my dad and we were bringing in a baby opossum that wasn't walking too good.  It turned out the baby had metabolic bone disease which I learned was common in opossums.  She was hoping the baby was going to make a full recovery but a few days later the baby died.

My dad always had a love for opossums ...  After meeting Anita my dad became part of the National Opossum Society.  She really made an impact on him.He was sad when he found out she passed and unfortunately later that same year he passed as well.

I will always remember Anita's love for opossums and my dad love for them as well.  Apparently his name is somewhere on the internet to contact if people have questions about them.  People call every once in a while and me or my mom try to help.  His name was Richard Horsman.

- Liesel Zepeda


I'm heartbroken to read the news of Dr. Henness' passing. It's difficult to accept that a person of her goodness and integrity had to experience such suffering. She will be greatly missed.

My first experience with opossums came when my cat found a pouchling sitting outside the glass patio door licking its tiny bleeding foot. Fortunately the cat was on the opposite side of the glass! After rescuing the injured baby and discovering its mother and siblings killed by a car in the street in front of our home, I panicked. I had no earthly idea how to feed and care for the creature that, with total trust, now lay on his back in the palm of my hand. A literature search turned up lots of misinformation from labs that use opossum in research. They offered the formula for the notorious Jurgelski's diet at which our "Dwiesel" wisely turned up his little pointed nose! From America Online came the fortuitous discovery of the wildlife rehab network, and through it Dr. Henness and her National Oppossum Society . . . just in time.

Anita became "Dwiesel's doctor" and was always there for us, sharing unstintingly her wealth of proven insight into the complicated care, feeding and medication of this most misunderstood creature, the Virginia opossum. She was always ready and willing to consult with our local veterinarian, gently guiding his efforts to maintain Dwiesel's health. As I came to know her better through telephone conversations and letters, it was soon evident that, no matter the burdens she bore, her first priority was always the opossums she cared for personally or remotely, in the households of rehabbers and foster families. I remember being deeply grateful for the selflessness with which she spent hours on the phone diagnosing symptoms and answering my questions in clinical detail.

And I remain utterly humbled by the dedication with which she persevered, undaunted and without complaint, no matter the obstacle . . . always maintaining her laser focus on the needs of the helpless creatures dependent upon her expertise.

When our beloved Dwiesel passed away in '93, of immune system failure following repeated urinary tract infections, Dr. Henness spent her precious time counselling me in my sadness, both on the phone and in letters and cards. My greatest regret is that, living so far away (North Carolina), there was little I could do in return for all of the help she gave us. It would have been wonderful to hop in the car, drive over and say "what can I do to make things a little easier for you?"

Dwiesel was my first and only "foster possum" and truly the "love of my life". To this day I still stop to move the unfortunate victims of cars out of the road and check the mother's pouches for babies to be saved and funneled into the local rehab network. Each year we save a few more . . .
always in the memory of our sweet Dwiesel and his wonderful "Dr. Anita". Perhaps now he's finally met the kind lady whose wisdom changed the course of his life. The welcoming committee on the other side of her "rainbow bridge" should be truly awesome . . .

-Pat McCutchen


I guess I have avoided checking the "possum site" lately, afraid of what I would find yet always filled with hope that the news would be better. But, my routine has been to check each month, and it has been about a month since I checked last. My eyes filled with tears as I read the pages tonight. My heart is again filled with gratitude that I had the opportunity to meet (over the phone) the great and famous Dr. Henness. I have no doubt that she helped me keep my PITA much longer than otherwise would have been possible. We had tried to release her, but she came home near death. Raising PITA was one of the scariest and yet most wonderful experiences I ever had. I was so afraid of doing something wrong. I had never raised a baby possum before.

Dr Henness talked to me for over an hour asking so many questions, I felt like I was taking my "orals!" I filled pages with notes of things I had to do and things I had to check. Even though I was prepared to get "yelled at" (I had been warned by my friend, a rehabber), she never yelled, not even once. I guess I impressed her by quoting her own instructions and reassuring her I had followed them.

Although we lived on opposite sides of this country, I felt an instant kinship with a fellow possum lover. I will always appreciate the time and effort she spent on me and PITA even though she was not that well herself at the time. We surely would have lost our little girl at that time if it had not been for Dr Henness.

The world is truly a better place because she walked among us.

-Jan Siglin (PITA's mom)


With her help, I was able to keep the 2 babies (they were non -releasable) in reasonably good health until their deaths. I am thankful for her knowledge and love for all creatures. Most folks take Nature's creatures as non- existent. Not Dr. H. Godspeed.

-Cindy Mullino


What a sad day for us and a beautiful relief for Anita. I will miss her so much. She taught me such a great deal about not only our wonderful opossums, but about the human spirit and the determination to fight adversity. I don't how many of us believe in Heaven, but I do and my imagination is that Heaven was waiting for Anita and the angels greeted her by saying "Welcome, Anita, well done." Goodbye for now, Dr. Henness. We miss you terribly and your teachings will never be forgotten.

- Laura Burdette


Never before have I seen such super people take over where someone like Anita left off. These gals are so fantastic, I hope you appreciate them as much as I do.

Take care of Anitas "kids" 'cause you can be assured she is still in control and watching! Anita picked the best and those that cared as much as she did. Believe me when I say they are keeping every scrap of paper that MIGHT come in handy later. Amazing people who do care so much! That's NOS, and every person I've been in touch with has had nothing but positive things to say about how she helped so much and saved so many lives. When noon comes around I start watching the clock because that's when I would go spend time with Anita.

Amazing person and fun to have as a friend. Thank each and every one of you for caring so much.

-Julie Mitchell


There are no words...except that she is were she needs to be, and at peace. And I'm sure she passed on with the quiet assurance that the organization she worked so on for so many years has been left in "the" most capable hands. My thoughts and prayers are with her, her family & many loyal friends.

-Kim Moy


Our choir has been practicing Faure's "Requiem". This past week. after choir practice all I could think of was Anita. "...Grant them rest eternal, grant them Lord, eternal rest.." We will be singing that and "In Paradism" for Lent...
"in paradise be thou received of angel hosts, thy coming attended by all the blessed martyr throng- thy pathway guided into the holy city, Jerusalem, Jerusalem..."
I kept on picturing Anita being welcomed, free from pain, and healed in body and soul. Still I cry so! The world is a sadder place for me tonight. I am so greatful she died in peace. I know she wanted that, after what she has been through.

-Wendy Wiegand


Thank you so much for your very thoughtful and heartfelt email about Anita. It is so good to know you were there and that her final hours were spent at peace. Your words are a soothing gift in the midst of such a loss. I can hardly imagine that she is gone, she has been a part of my life for so long, and during some of my most intense years. My thoughts are with her family, those she mentored, and those, like you, who cared so for her over this last year. Janice and Paula and the rest of NOS have large shoes to fill, and perhaps this last year has helped prepare them to fully take the helm, if not to soften the loss. Anita chose well.
The sadness of losing such a force as she was will be with us a long time, but certainly it will never overshadow what bounty that life gave us all forever. The love she instilled and fostered in all of us for D. virginiana was the greatest gift of all. I believe she knew that.
I would imagine a subtle shock wave ran through the opossum world at the moment Anita passed.
Please put me on the list of those who would like to scatter some of her ashes, should her family find this acceptable. It would be an honor to share her in so intimate a way with some of her beloved kids in Nebraska. While they never met in this life, perhaps she is surrounded by them now.

-Nancy Hawekotte


We are so saddened to hear the news of Dr. Henness. So often in the defense of North American's little marsupial, I would send people in doubt of our little creature to her site. The love she radiated with her life, I intend to carry on teaching kids, through the Possum Twins, to dream, think, laugh and love--to "hang in there" when times are tough, and to show the world that the little possum isn't utterly ugly but awesomely adorable.
M-m-m-m, the 'possum'bilities
If you work hard and in your heart you truly believe
There's nothing in the world im'possum'ble to achieve
You'll be amazed at all the 'possum'bilities. . .

-Diane Cathey