Mrs. Claudia Suzanne Henley, 64, of Hockessin, Delaware passed away after a long-fought battle with cancer, surrounded by her family. She was born in Dearborn, Michigan on December 18, 1958. Her parents were the late Alexander Luther Smith, Jr. and Joanne Willie Paschal Smith.
Survivors include her husband, Jim Henley of Hockessin, DE; sons, Michael Henley of Chadds Ford, PA, and Eric (Shelby) Henley of Wilmington, DE; daughter, Mariah Henley of Hockessin, DE; brother, David Smith of WA; sister, Cynthia (David) Keill of Virginia Beach, VA; grandchildren, Hayley Krause-Henley, Savannah Henley, Taylor Henley, Ryan Henley, and Maverick Henley; as well as aunts, uncles, cousins, and numerous friends.
Growing up Claudia was blessed with a variety of traits that would serve her well in the years to come. She was described as having a “good turn.” Simply put, she was full of kindness and love for everyone. The ability to listen, not judge, put herself in another person's shoes, provide sound advice, see the best in everyone, and offer unconditional love were chief among her attributes.
In her early high school years, she lived around the block from a young man who would become her husband. Claudia caught Jim’s eye one day on the bus. The combination of her good looks, unassuming personality, and pink bell bottom pants were just his style. Jim being shy and nervous had a friend ask her to join them for pizza after one of the high school basketball games. That outing was to be the first of many and the one that laid the foundation for their loving marriage of over 42 years. Claudia would watch Jim play baseball, and he would watch her tennis matches.
Jim graduated from high school a year before her in 1976. They stayed close and dated until they married on July 25, 1981, in Virginia Beach. Claudia pursued her bachelor’s degree in education at Old Dominion University, while Jim earned his degree in accounting, becoming a CPA. They both graduated and went on to work in their respective fields. In the meantime, they were blessed with two sons and later with their daughter. Although Claudia loved teaching and being involved with children, an opportunity presented itself to her. It was a sales consultant job with Tupperware, where she could set her own hours and work around her family's schedules. Claudia jumped right into the business with both feet, both hands, and brought her family along for the ride that lasted several decades.
She began the business herself at first and quickly grew it to a level that allowed another sales region to be offered to her. The offer included a move to Delaware from Virginia in 1992. She and Jim took the plunge with their newborn daughter and two boys in tow. Claudia quickly connected with the local Amish community. They seemed to be kindred spirits in the areas of love, family, and a hard work ethic. The Amish took her in like one of their own and were a primary component of her success. The business growth provided an opportunity for Jim to come on board. He ran the business side, and Claudia took care of the customers. The kids weren’t left out of the business. They would be in the background at all the meetings. If Mariah would cry from the back of the room, someone would bring her up to Claudia to hold while she ran the meeting.
The business experienced phenomenal growth, and Claudia was blessed to be awarded trips. These included places like Paris and Hawaii to name a couple. In addition, she was provided with a company car. All of the family was able to enjoy the fruits of their labor together. The business was very important to her and Jim, but their family was most important. The kids became involved in travel sports. The travel teams took them all over the country. They felt having the kids involved in sports would help teach them a lot of valuable life lessons. It was a great experience to be together and encourage the kids in their own pursuits. She was the type of mother who the kids knew they could come talk to her about anything. They knew in advance her advice would be tempered with unconditional love and a helping of motherly wisdom. She also made it a point to stay close to her parents and siblings, often going back to Virginia Beach to see them.
Over the last several years, Claudia faced a battle with cancer. During that time her strong will and the love and support of her family and extended business family gave her the hope and strength to carry on. Even at her lowest point health wise, she kept hoping and planning to host another Tupperware party with her Amish friends. Through it all, she stayed positive. Her family and friends rallied around her to return a measure of the unconditional love she so freely shared with all of them.
Visitation will be at Gentry-Smith Funeral Home Saturday, October 14, 2023, from 11-1 pm. Funeral services will follow in the Gentry-Smith Funeral Home chapel at 1 pm. Interment will be in Riverside Cemetery. David Keill will officiate. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Breast Cancer Research Foundation (bcrf.org). Gentry-Smith Funeral Home, 303 Murfreesboro Rd. Woodbury, TN 37190, 615-563-5337. Because every life has a story.