A 60-foot flagpole at the entrance of Stanhope Elmore's football field pays tribute to a man who impacted the lives of a countless number of people.
Coach Conrad Henderson's death in August 2019 at the age of 89 left a void in the hearts of the people who knew and loved him. Known as Coach Henderson to the Millbrook community, he served as the school's football coach, a teacher and principal. He was also an Army veteran who served in the Korean War for 13 months.
After Henderson's death, SEHS principal Ewell Fuller, who had a close relationship with Henderson, said donations started rolling in from people who knew Henderson and wanted to find a way to honor his legacy. A bench dedicated to Henderson was installed at the school, but Fuller said he needed to figure out what to do with all of the money that had been donated. He settled on a flagpole with a four-sided granite monument.
The project's total cost came to about $40,000, according to Fuller. It was funded through monetary donations from the community as well as contributions from area businesses. It took about four months to complete the project.
"I cannot say thank you enough to the people who've helped with this," Fuller said. "Now every time someone walks through that gate, they'll know who Coach Henderson was. It's important to the history of the school as well as the history of the Millbrook community."
On Dec. 3, several members of the community gathered for a dedication ceremony for the flagpole and monument. As Fuller sat in his office prior to the dedication, he pondered on what he wanted to say about Coach Henderson. Searching for inspiration, Fuller looked up the definition for 'coach' in the dictionary and was less than impressed with what he found.
Merriam-Webster defines a coach as "one who instructs players in the fundamentals of a sport and directs team strategy." The definition didn't sit well with Fuller because it didn't accurately describe Henderson's role in the lives of students.
"It was about more than the game," Fuller said. "He was a mentor, a guidance counselor, a disciplinarian, someone you could rely on and someone you could call during adverse times. No matter what happened he was there for you 24/7."
As an educator, Fuller said, "You hope students retain at least 30% of what you taught them, but they will remember 100% of how you made them feel." Fuller said Henderson was respected and admired more so because of how he treated people, not just what he taught in the classroom or what he brought to the table as a principal.
Michael Henderson, Coach Henderson's son, said he became aware of his father's role in the community at a young age.
"Since I was a little boy, he always had a way with people," Michael Henderson said. "I think I was about 4 years old when I first started to realize that."
Michael Henderson joked that for the first 40 to 45 years of his life he "was scared to death of him." But as he got older, he said his father became more like an older brother to him.
Michael Henderson said he often invited his father to move to north Alabama to live with him, but his father always declined because Millbrook was his home and it was where he wanted to stay.
"I want to thank everyone who had a hand in this," Michael Henderson said. "This is not something that he would have ever sought out, but he would be most appreciative of such a kind gesture."
Several businesses and individuals worked together to make the idea of the project a reality.
Hamp Davis, the owner of Granite Shop, constructed the four-sided granite monument around the flagpole. This was project unlike anything he's ever done before, but he gave it his best.
"It wasn't an easy project," Davis said. "Probably the most difficult part was trying to figure out the best way to attach the granite to the cinderblock behind it and doing so in the safest way possible."
Other contributors include the Millbrook Men's Club, Garner Electric, Superintendent Richard Dennis and the Elmore County Board of Education, Doyle Campbell, Alabama Power, Elmore County Maintenance Department, SEHS Alumni, Ewell Fuller, Charlie Stinchcomb and Harris Garner.