Columbia County School System Public Safety Director Robert “Buddy” Hendry died Saturday after a prolonged battle with lung cancer. He was 68.
Hendry’s dedication to the welfare of pupils and his jovial demeanor will be greatly missed, school Superintendent Charles Nagle said.
“We just all love Buddy, and we’re going to miss him,” Nagle said. “There’s a true void here right now.”
Though school officials allowed Hendry intermittent medical leave for his chemotherapy and radiation treatments, Nagle said he rarely missed work.
“He would take a day off for his treatment, but he was right back in here the next day,” Nagle said. “He did not let it interfere with performing his duties, and it wasn’t perfunctory. He was on the job.”
Hendry started working for the school system 18 years ago after serving 28 years with the Florida Highway Patrol. His new career began at Harlem High School, where his wife, Phyllis, once served as the secretary.
Nagle said Hendry quickly rose through the ranks to become the school district’s public safety director in 2000.
News of Hendry’s death created a somber mood throughout the district, Nagle said.
“Everyone is just heartbroken,” he said. “Buddy just touched so many lives.”
Among those feeling Hendry’s loss Monday was longtime friend and next-door neighbor Mike Carraway, the husband of school system Deputy Superintendent Sandra Carraway.
“Outside of family, Buddy is the closest person to me who ever died,” Mike Carraway said. “It’s been unsettling.”
Carraway said Hendry never lost his faith or caring attitude.
“He showed everybody how to live through a death sentence,” Carraway said. “The man held his head high and with great faith. ... He knew that whatever happened, he would be all right.”
Often, Carraway said, he received phone calls from Hendry asking for a little money to help someone in need. Carraway said he was among a small group that Hendry called on in his efforts to take care of others.
“Buddy is going to be missed at a level most people can’t even fathom,” Carraway said. “I have lost the greatest friend.”
Hendry is survived by his wife, his parents, four children, nine grandchildren and two sisters.
The funeral will be at 4 p.m. today at West Acres Baptist Church in Evans. School system public safety officers will serve as pallbearers.