Strawberry was the son of Isaac “Ike” Henson (1886-1956) and Mahala Elizabeth EASTER (1887-1963), and the 3rd of their 7 children (although there may have been an 8th child, perhaps older than Orvil). He died 9 Jul 1986 in Fayetteville Arkansas at the age of 74. Although his age was 3 years above the average life expectancy for males in the USA at that time, he was far from breaking any records for longevity.
Yet age and years aren’t the most important ways to measure a life’s value, at least according to the following popular quotes (showing just 3 of the many variations found online) …
“It does not matter how long you live, but how well you do it.”
“The quality, not the longevity, of one’s life is what is important.”
~ Martin Luther King Jr.
“And in the end, it’s not how may years in your life, but how much life in your years.”
~ Edward J. Stieglitz, M.D., author of “The Second Forty Years”, 1947
I would consider Strawberry’s extended period of child rearing a form of longevity. Would you agree?
As Strawberry's first child was born in 1938, only 2 children made it into the 1940 USA census. Later census records cannot yet be accessed. Looking at census statistics in general, I was disappointed to see that they count all families with 7 or more people together in a single column, and do not identify the size of the largest family. But I think most would agree that families with 19 children are rare. Considering the necessary ages and time span required to produce this many children, it would be highly unlikely for all of them to be living in the same household at any given time. Many of the older ones would have moved out on their own before younger ones were born. The census deals with household size rather than family size, so is not always an accurate source of overall family size.
Notoriety came to Strawberry, not only through his unusual name and the amazing size of his family, but also through a national publication. In the March 1978 edition of National Geographic magazine, page 421, as part of an article on Arkansas, they chose to include a full page head shot of Orvil “Strawberry” HENSON with his long grey beard, his floppy hat, and dark piercing eyes. A face full of character. On page 420, the magazine also published a small photo of his 2 youngest children (as of 1978) along with the following caption:
“Ozark patriarch, Orvil “Strawberry” Henson (facing page) has cut broomcorn in Kansas and picked apples in Washington. Now 66, he’s home to stay with his second wife and the youngest of his 16 children ... . He resents newcomers who clear the forest for development. But of those who come to find a simpler way of life, he believes “that’s real worthwhile. Those people won’t hurt the land.””
“Strawberry Henson was born and raise[d] in Arkansas and for many years he has performed on TV Programs, public benefits, or just wherever a crowd gathers. His ability to create a multitude of sounds and make them all come out of his mouth at once has made his animal fights a pleasure to many Arkansans. Self taught, he plays several musical instruments and writes many of his own songs.”
I have been in touch with this family via facebook, and as of 2016 his second wife and 16 of his children were living. 11 of those children attended a family reunion that same year.
Only a simple wooden cross marks Strawberry's burial in Millers Chapel Cemetery near Winslow, but his living memorial exists in the extraordinary number of his descendants.
Quotes - Edward J. Stieglitz, M.D., author of “The Second Forty Years”, 1947
Quotes - Martin Luther King Jr. - https://www.logomaker.com/blog/2013/01/21/12-quotes-on-leadership-from-martin-luther-king-jr-for-small-business-owners/
Poem - Helen Steiner Rice - "Time is not measured by the years that you live ..." - https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/292123-time-is-not-measured-by-the-years-that-you-live
Life expectancy in the USA, 1900-98 - http://www.demog.berkeley.edu/~andrew/1918/figure2.html
Male life expectancy - http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/usa/life-expectancy-male
Census - U.S. Households by Size, 1790–2006 - https://www.infoplease.com/us/household-and-family-statistics/us-households-size-1790-2006
National Geographic magazine, March 1978 issue, page 470-471, part of article "Easygoing, Hardworking Arkansas" by Boyd Gibbons, Photographs by Matt Bradley (access by subscription)
Find A Grave Memorial #87825563 - https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/87825563/orvil-henson