William Robert Hendley

Published 10:21 am Wednesday, July 26, 2023

July 1, 1934 – July 2, 2023

William Robert HendleyWilliam Robert Hendley was born July 1, 1934 to Flavius Josephus Hendley and Cornelia Smartt Hendley Hodges. After his father’s untimely death, his mother moved he and his brother Owen to Columbia, Tennessee where they were welcomed by family and raised with humor and a firm sense of community.

He met Gisela Truestedt, his wife of 59 years, after completing his schooling at Yale and Duke. Seven years later, he began teaching economics at Hampden-Sydney College where he would make his life for many years. Together, Bill and Gisela shared a commitment to living humbly but imaginatively, to their faith and to raising their children.

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Living ethically and morally was his life’s ambition and he spent much of his time, heart and resources seeking to assuage some of the suffering and pain he saw in the world. He was deeply committed to philanthropy and justice. He loved his church and community and engaged in many simple acts of service as well as serving boards and committees.

His devotion to his profession was evident in his inexhaustible search for interesting ways to keep his students engaged. Sifting through philosophy, history, fiction, science, newspaper articles and personal stories, he read everything, ingeniously making ideas and concepts come alive. He was truly interested in the art of teaching.

He was a great ponderer of life’s questions, big and small. He was interested in almost everything and curious about everyone. He wanted to know what you did and how you did it and what implications that might have on everything else. He wanted to know what you thought and why you thought it. He would debate almost any question, listening, and probing you to think about things in new ways or delighting that you had made him think about something in a new way or just agreeing to disagree. Even when his children were very young, their ideas were taken seriously and mulled over as if they were miniature great philosophers.

He was a father and husband. He was humble, gracious and confident without bluster. His family never saw anger or petulance. He had a determined disciplined good humor. He was generous with his attention, perhaps the highest expression of love. He nurtured his children’s interests and passions and what he wanted most for them was to be good, happy and interesting people. As a husband he was steady and true and never failed to arrive at the dinner table with an idea or story.

William R. Hendley is survived by Gisela Truestedt Hendley, his wife; son, Joseph Hendley and daughters, Ingeborg Hendley (James Knowles) and Jane Hendley. They hope to one-day gather again around the table with the best person they have ever known.

A Celebration of Life service will be held at Farmville Presbyterian Church on Aug. 5, at 11 a.m. In lieu of flowers, a charitable donation may be made to FACES Food Pantry or Doctors without Borders.