03/01/2010 - Our lively, fun-filled game of verbal ping-pong goes something like this:
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Me: "We want to feature you as a hometown hero."
James: "I'm not a hero."
Me: "We think you are."
James: "I'm not a hero; I'm just an auto mechanic."
Me: "Who happens to be a hero in the eyes of many people."
James: "But I don't think I am."
Me: "So, you're saying you think your opinion is more valid than other peoples'?"
James (Ponders this. Reluctantly): "I just don't want people to think that I think I'm a hero."
Me: "I'll do everything I can to make sure they don 't think that."
So, even though James Henderson doesn't think he's a hero, here's why other people think he is: He is keenly aware of the needs of others; he's generous with his time and talent; he seeks to improve the lives of others; and he encourages the younger folk who go to Casper College with him to consider doing volunteer work.
James grew up in Detroit. Like so many other boys raised in the motor city, he lived, ate, and breathed cars and engines. Long before he was 10, he preferred learning alongside a crotchety, 60-year-old all day to sitting in a classroom.
James and his wife, Cathy, moved with their children to Casper over a decade ago. With Cathy's support and encouragement, James started his own automotive shop, Pure Power Automotive. James brings his attitude of helping people to his business and, along with his employees, works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year -- because no one should ever be stranded with a broken down car. James has spent Christmas day working on a motor, has eaten a Thanksgiving plate brought to him by Cathy while he worked in the garage, has spent four hours on the phone telling a friend how to fix his car that had broken down on the New Jersey Turnpike, has driven to Rapid City on his birthday to repair an engine, and has, many times, responded to a call late at night, giving the customer a ride home, fixing his car, and returning it to the customer's driveway so the customer could get to work in the morning.
"I remember the old mechanics," James tells me. "They were people you could trust. They were an integral part of the community." Also honest and trustworthy, James charges for the job, not by the hour. He gives free estimates that really are free, even if the customer decides not to have the work done in James' shop. If you're considering buying a car, James will check it out for you for free. He'll even go to the lot with you and speak "car" with the sales associate. For free.
James is a strong believer in doing what he can to make our community even better. For instance, he and his employees volunteer for worthy projects including once putting together playground equipment for an organization that houses women and children of domestic abuse. They've worked for free on the cars of Casper College students so they'll have no excuse to miss class. Recently, James restored an engine for his friends who own a restaurant here in town so they can have something dependable for their travel to catering jobs.
Some may think James and his generous heart and outstanding work ethic are too good to be true. It's not. He's the way America used to be and the way many Americans still are. He's one of Casper's Hometown Heroes.