Eleanor Hendren

Obituary of Eleanor McKenna Hendren

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Eleanor McKenna Hendren (1926 - 2024)

Eleanor died peacefully Monday, March 18th, a few weeks short of her 98th birthday.

Known affectionately as "Yaya" to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and "Ellie" to her friends, Eleanor presided for nearly 50 years over their busy home in Duxbury, hosting family weddings, countless birthday and anniversary celebrations. She loved her plants and flowers indoors and out, especially her beautiful rose garden on Duxbury Bay, where many a grandchild learned how to swim, sail and water-ski off the dock.

Eleanor Frances McKenna was born in Windsor, Ontario April 30, 1926 to Scottish immigrants Muriel (nee Grant) and William "Willie" McKenna. Willie was an engineer with DuPont in Toronto and then Wilmington, Delaware. In the 1930s, his work-travel to Germany included supplying the US government with intelligence on the Nazi war buildup. On vacation in Scotland one summer, Eleanor remembered her father's abrupt return from Germany with news about the U-boat danger. The family, now including her little brother Douglas, was on the next boat back to the States. They also lived for a time in Hanford, Washington, where Willie worked on the Manhattan Project.

Eleanor graduated from Marjorie Webster Junior College in Washington, DC, and then worked as a stewardess for Trans World Airlines. In 1946, invited to a football weekend at Woodberry Forest School in Virginia, she met W. Hardy Hendren, III. Immediately attracted to Eleanor's lovely singing voice and her sense of humor, Hardy always told the family that  he announced on their very first date she was the girl he was going to marry. They were married in early 1947, remaining together for 75 years, until Hardy’s death in 2022.

The newlyweds returned to Dartmouth College to complete Hardy's undergraduate degree and begin medical school. Starting their lives together in the paper-thin walls of married student housing, Eleanor sewed and sold fishing-lure neckties to put food on the table.  An energetic homemaker, she also supported her husband’s innovative medical ideas right from the start. She recalled stitching together a working prototype for a mechanical compression stocking; an idea that became commercially available decades later, and is widely used today. Their first child and only daughter, Sandra McLeod, was born during their time at Dartmouth.

They moved to Boston in 1950, where Hardy completed medical school, followed by training in general surgery and pediatric surgery. The family grew steadily, with Douglas Hardy in 1950, William Grant in 1953, Robert Bruce in 1957 and David Fraser in 1960. With the demands of Hardy's work building a department of pediatric surgery at the MGH, Eleanor embraced the challenge of raising five children, running a busy household, and being a consummate hostess at home in Chestnut Hill.

Eleanor and Hardy's lifelong commitment to education was evident as their children pursued careers in nursing, law, and three surgical specialties. Their most difficult parenting challenge was seeing their daughter Sandy diagnosed with juvenile diabetes, and the complications that took her life at age 37.

In later years, Hardy's work attracted patients and surgeons from all over the world. Eleanor revealed an amazing ability to add places at her table on a moment’s notice. She graciously hosted hordes of visiting surgeons, who sometimes stayed for weeks at a time to learn Hardy's techniques.

As her children started going away to school, Eleanor and her lifelong friend Anne Browne started Cycle Venture, Inc., manufacturing and marketing clothing of their own design. Cycle grew into a nationwide business, which they sold in 1999. Their product line grew from a women’s “tennis kilt” to a broader line of sports apparel popular with amateur and professional tennis players, and women’s scholastic and collegiate lacrosse and field hockey teams across the US. As kilts enjoyed a popularity boom, Cycle was featured in the New York Times fashion section. Their kilt even became popular with men, including being worn on stage by the lead singer in a popular hard rock band!

Eleanor had a natural flair for singing and dancing, and in her youth briefly considered a career in theater. She was a perennial star in musical productions by the Vincent Club of Boston, and later in many Duxbury Yacht Club shows. She thoroughly enjoyed putting her costume collection to use, greeting neighbors on occasion as a witch, an Easter bunny, or even appearing in a full-sized gorilla suit, distributing bananas to unsuspecting neighbors or guests. Her genius for hospitality shone at the annual summer Children's Hospital family gathering. To the delight of children of all ages, the Duxbury Beach ice cream truck would appear in her driveway, and Ellie picked up the tab.

An avid athlete, Eleanor ran three miles a day in her prime. In her later years, she made it a priority to circumnavigate the neighborhood daily on her walker. While failing vision slowed her down, Eleanor remained active to the very end, supported by a wonderful team of caregivers. The family is deeply grateful for their support, surrounding Eleanor with kindness, competence and unfailing good cheer.

Eleanor survived husband Hardy (d. 2022) and daughter Sandy (d.1984). She is survived by Douglas and Nancy Beall Hendren of Harrisonburg, VA, William and Linda Hendren of Duxbury, MA, Robert and Dominique Hendren of Goshen, KY, and David and Astrid Hendren, of Plymouth, MA, as well as eleven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Her memorial service will be held on Saturday, April 6 at 11:00 a.m.at St. John the Evangelist Church, 410 Washington St. in Duxbury.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made to The Hendren Project at www.hendrenproject.org.

A Memorial Tree was planted for Eleanor
We are deeply sorry for your loss ~ the staff at Shepherd Funeral & Cremation Service - Kingston
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Eleanor Hendren

In Loving Memory

Eleanor Hendren

1926 - 2024

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