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Obituary

Memorial Service Planned for Theda Henle

<bt>Theda Ostrander Henle, 87, president of the Arlington League of Women Voters from 1956 to 1958, active in the Arlington Democratic Party up until 1990, civic leader, author and wife and mother died April 1 at Prince George's Community Hospital of a heart attack suffered the day before.

Mrs. Henle grew up in San Diego and lived in Arlington from 1949 until 2003, when she moved to Collington Retirement Community in Mitchellville, Md. During the time she served as president of the Arlington League of Women Voters, she was prominent in the civil rights movement. In l956 the Virginia Attorney General declared that seating at political meetings must be segregated, contrary to existing practice. At a candidates' meeting chaired by Mrs. Henle and sponsored by the League and numerous other community organizations, Virginia’s segregated seating law was challenged. The white woman who illegally sat in the section reserved for black voters was later acquitted in court because it could not be proved she was white.

In 1959, the Henle home overlooked Stratford Junior High School, the first school to be desegregated in Virginia. On February 2, the day that it was desegregated, Mrs. Henle opened her home to the parents of the four African American students entering Stratford, so that they could be close to their children. The parents accepted her invitation and all were relieved when the day passed without incident.

She served on the campaign staff for Augustus C. Johnson in 1962 and 1964 in his campaigns for Congress and on many other Democratic Party campaigns. In the 1970s, she worked in Richmond at the General Assembly as an aide to her longtime friend, Delegate Mary Marshall.

Her novel, "Death Files for Congress," was published in 1971 by Vanguard Press. Her short story, “A Harmless Vanity,” originally printed in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, was later made into a BBC television story for the series Tales of the Unexpected. Several of her plays were performed in the Washington area.

She was a longtime summer resident of Center Sandwich, N.H., where she is well-remembered for her humor and generosity.

Mrs. Henle was born in 1918 in San Francisco and spent her childhood in San Diego. Her grandfather, Dr. Frederick Burnham, was the first doctor in San Diego. She graduated from the Bishops School in LaJolla in 1935. She spent the next year at the Institute Monnier outside Geneva, Switzerland where her classmates included Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany.

She graduated with Honors from Swarthmore College in 1940. It was at Swarthmore that she met her husband of 63 years, Peter Henle. They were married in 1941, and their first child, Michael, was born in 1944.

Survivors include her husband, Peter, of Mitchellville; three children, Michael Henle of Oberlin, Ohio, James Henle of Northampton, Mass. and Paul Henle of Concord, N.H.; four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, April 16 at the Hyatt Hotel in Rosslyn.