John Henderson: West Hampstead pays tribute to popular book-seller who died last weekend
PUBLISHED: 10:10 23 May 2019 | UPDATED: 10:40 23 May 2019
West Hampstead came together last night to celebrate the life of John Henderson, who died last weekend.
The Alliance Pub in Mill Lane was packed with friends, family and former customers of John's bookstall near West Hampstead Thameslink Station.
The Glasgow native was often joined by his three-legged Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Sugar. She died last year, and a plaque was erected on the bridge.
The evening saw social barriers break down as people shared how they had met the 49-year-old, and talked about their memories of him.
One man, Matthew, who was wearing his kippah, said he only started wearing it regularly after encouragement from John.
He said: "I was talking to him and told him I was Jewish, and he asked me why I didn't wear a kippah.
"I said it was because I sometimes felt self-conscious in public wearing it. He turned round and said 'You can't be ashamed of who you are.' That stuck with me, and really had an effect. I've always worn it since."
Francesca Happe who was in the Alliance with her daughter Poppy, said she first met John when he helped her carry Poppy and their pushchair down the stairs at the Thameslink station.
"I was struggling along, walking down the stairs for the Thameslink, and he came along and helped me carry the pushchair down. When he heard I was expecting my third child he gave me £1, because it was good luck for the baby.
"He really cared about people and took an interest in them, and I think that's why he was so well liked. It's so sad about what's happened."
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Another person who came to celebrate John's life was Natalie Homer. She said she cried when she heard the news. She first met him and Sugar when she was taking her daughter to school, and would walk past him.
"It's amazing how he's brought people together. Tonight you've got all sorts of people talking to each other.
"The last time I remember something like this was watching Princess Diana's funeral in Hyde Park in 1997. I never thought I'd see anything like it again, but in a funny old way this might be it."
Others spoke of his hard work, often being at his stall before they commuted to work and still being there when they came home, and his ability to cheer people up when they saw him.
A crowdfunder, organised by John's friend Natasha Back has raised more than £2200.
The money will go towards Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. John's children Rosie and Steven both suffer from it.
This week the Ham&High reported that 18-year-old Rosie spoke to her Dad for the first time in ten years last week. They were due to meet this week, but John's death tragically prevented them from doing so.
Speaking at the memorial last night alongside her brother John, she thanked people for their tributes.
"This week it is overwhelming, I can't say thankyou enough to everyone in this room.
"He lives on in our hearts. He was a lovely gentleman, and he had issues himself, but nobody is perfect. Throughout his journey he has tried to make every single one of your day's. All your donations, the amount we have raised in two days is insane."
To contribute towards the fundraiser, visit: https://www.gofundme.com/for-rosie-steven-john-amp-fasd-awareness-se
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