Pageant survivor

Heather French Henry to speak
at Carroll County Chamber banquet

By Ruth Wright
Staff Writer

CARROLLTON, Ky. (August 2003) – Heather French Henry, Miss America 2000 and wife of Kentucky Lt. Gov. Steve Henry, will be the keynote speaker at the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce annual banquet on Aug. 12.

Heather French Henry

Heather French Henry

The annual event will be held at Gen. Butler Convention Center in Carrollton. The public is welcome to attend the dinner and silent auction.
Henry, 28, was born in Augusta, Ky. Her family moved a short distance away to Maysville when she was age 2. Growing up a small-town girl, Henry said she participated in beauty pageants from time to time but that the contests were not her all-consuming passion. “Pageants were just a tiny part of other things going on,” said Henry. Those other things included singing gospel music with her parents, performing in music theater and participating in a variety of extra-curricular activities like chorus, band and high school sports at Mason County High School.
After graduating from high school in 1992, Henry went on to the University of Cincinnati, where she earned a bachelor of science degree in Fashion Design in 1997. By that time she had won a variety of beauty contests and continued to compete but said she considered education her primary focus.
Henry met her husband in 1995 at a brunch hosted by the governor’s office. “(He) had the difficulty of hosting all of the Miss Kentucky contestants as a bachelor,” Henry joked. The two crossed paths several times over the following years but did not go out on their first date, an outing at the Kentucky State Fair, until after Henry became Miss Kentucky in 1999.
Henry won the Miss America pageant in 2000 with her platform of raising awareness of the plight of homeless veterans. This led her on a national speaking tour titled, “Our Forgotten Heroes: Honoring Our Nation’s Homeless Veterans.” Henry said her platform choice was inspired by growing up the daughter of a disabled Vietnam veteran addicted to prescription drugs. “There are so many people who don’t want to talk about this issue because it’s not pretty,” she said. Her father, Ron French, now recovered, accompanied her throughout much of the tour.
Henry’s outspoken service activities as Miss America earned her the Woman of Achievement Award for the year 2000. She was the only Miss America to be so honored at the end of her year of service.
Henry married Henry in October 2000 in a lavish ceremony called “the social event of the year in Kentucky,” by the Associated Press. Reporters and spectators crowded around the church in downtown Louisville, where the wedding ceremony took place to catch a glimpse of the fairy-tale couple. The ceremony was broadcast on local television stations.
Since becoming Kentucky’s second lady, French has attained a master’s degree, worked as a morning news anchor for Louisville’s Fox 41 channel and given birth to two daughters, Harper Renee, 2, and Taylor Augusta, born July 4.
Besides being a mom, Henry remains busy with regular speaking engagements and heading her organization, the Heather French Foundation for Veterans. It is a nonprofit corporation that works to offer services and support to veterans in the areas of homelessness, healthcare and housing. When possible, Henry works personally to help veterans in need of services and information.
“On a daily basis I get calls from individual veterans who need help with getting their disability claims pushed through. So many have had claims in the system for one to two years,” she said.
Henry is also currently writing a series of children’s books, “The Adventures of Claire,” that center around the message of honoring our nation’s veterans. The first book of the series, “Pepper’s Purple Heart,” is scheduled to be released independently on Veteran’s Day this year and nationally next year.
Perhaps the most pressing concern Henry has at the moment is the illness of her husband. Lt. Gov. Henry announced at a July 22 press conference that he would undergo surgery for prostate cancer.
“We’re looking for a favorable outcome,” she said during a telephone interview immediately following the press conference. She said the cancer had been caught at a very early stage.
Henry said she will deliver a universal message of community involvement at the chamber of commerce annual dinner. She plans to encourage community service, especially among high school students. “And of course, I always throw in my veterans,” she said.

Tickets to the 6:30 p.m. (EDT) event are $25 per person and may be purchased by calling the chamber office at (502) 732-7034.

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