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Late coach Hensley’s words are ‘Motivation for Life’
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Helen Hensley (left) and her daughter Dr. Mary Helen Hensley show a book Dr. Hensley compiled using words from the late Dick Hensley Jr. The book was a collaboration between Dr. Hensley and her father before his death in 2012. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)

Thursday, May 2, 2013

By BEN R. WILLIAMS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Dr. Mary Helen Hensley’s new book was nearly 30 years in the making.

Although she arranged the book and wrote the foreword, her name doesn’t appear on the cover. “The Pocket Coach: Motivation For Life” was written by her father, the late Dick Hensley.

When she was 14 years old, Dr. Hensley said, her father gave her a copy of the book “A Diary of Private Prayer” by theologian John Baillie. The inscription inside from her father, dated April 18, 1984, read: “With the firm conviction that you will be an eagle, not a parrot.”

The book, which remains in print today, is a 31-day meditation book. The odd numbered pages contain inspiring quotes from Baillie, while the opposite pages are blank, allowing the reader to write notes.

Dr. Hensley’s copy was not blank, however. Her father had filled in the blank pages himself, offering her different thoughts and quotes to carry through life.

One passage, she said, offers advice “if you are still single and looking for God’s partner in your life. There’s references made to teaching my children to stand tall. So he’s bearing in mind that I would have this for life and always make reference to it. Funny, 30 years later, mine is tattered because I haven’t gone anywhere without it. It meant a

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lot to me ... It has been such a great contribution to my life.”

About eight years ago, Dr. Hensley said, she told her father that she wanted to compile his quotes into a book. They sat down together and Dick Hensley went through the book, marking the quotes that were his own and making notes on the quotes that he had borrowed.

“My father was a great collector of quotes, and so probably one of the most difficult things was going through and authenticating,” she said.

Dr. Hensley decided to compile the book, with the help of her mother, Helen Hensley, shortly after Dick Hensley died in August 2012.

“I just thought, this is the time,” she said. “This is how I would like to honor dad’s memory.”

Appropriately, one of her father’s favorite quotes, she said, is “the greatest secret of life is to spend it on something that will outlast it.”

Many people in the Martinsville-Henry County area still cherish her father’s words, Dr. Hensley said. Dick Hensley was an active member of the community. He coached football at Martinsville High School for many years, was a headmaster at Carlisle School, served as a deacon at First Baptist Church in Martinsville and was a lay speaker at other area churches.

A highlight of his life, Dr. Hensley said, was the non-denominational Thursday morning men’s Bible study class he taught. The group eventually grew to more than 80 members of different religions and backgrounds, a fact that pleased him greatly.

Dr. Hensley turned her father’s words into a 31-day meditation book, the same format that Baillie’s book used. There are two quotes for each day, one for the morning and one for the evening, with opposing pages left blank for the reader to leave notes, just as Dick Hensley did for his daughter.

“What I want to create is a legacy that other people can pass on to their friends and family and children. It means so much to me now that my dad is gone. ... For a child who’s born, or a kid getting ready to graduate, or a family friend, they can take the book and they can ... write their own feelings to their child or their friend, and then pass it on,” she said.

When she received copies of the first print run of The Pocket Coach from her publisher, Dr. Hensley said she was surprised to see that a couple of errors had managed to slip into the book: “hear” had been misspelled as “here” on one page, and the credit for the cover photo — a shot of Hensley at the 1976 state football championship, taken by Martinsville Bulletin photographer Mike Wray — had been accidentally omitted.

Dr. Hensley slipped an “erratum” page into each book explaining the errors, although she said that in a way, the first edition containing mistakes was an appropriate homage.

“My dad was a big fan of (the idea that) guess what? You’re going to mess up,” Dr. Hensley said. “It’s okay. You don’t flog yourself. You forgive yourself, you correct the mistake, and you get on with it. That was a really big message for him.”

Dr. Hensley said that that message left a big impact on her. “The Pocket Coach” is the fourth book she’s had published. The first three, “Promised,” “Circles of Light” and “The Land Beyond the River,” are a trilogy about her own life, and the importance of both her personal triumphs and hardships.

“I have had so many unusual life experiences,” she said. “Some people might call them failures, some people might call them mistakes, but they are as important to me as all of the positive accomplishments I’ve made in my life.”

Dr. Hensley currently lives in Athlone, Ireland, with her daughters Jemma, 10, and Jada, 8. In addition to her writing, she also conducts workshops and seminars on metaphysical healing.

Dr. Hensley’s website is available at She is scheduled to attend the book festival at Binding Time Cafe in Martinsville from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.


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