Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue | Nonita Cuesta Henson

Civic activist helped shape Tampa of today

TAMPA — When Tampa police took 90 minutes to respond to a burglary at her home in Palma Ceia, Nonita Cuesta Henson was angry at first.

The officer explained that he had been busy disarming a man with a long knife in Temple Terrace. He showed her the knife.

This was in the late 1960s, when officers made only $5,000 a year and had to buy their own guns and holsters. So Mrs. Henson founded the Citizens Alert Police Support Committee and lobbied City Hall for more officers and higher salaries.

Her efforts paid off. So did nearly every endeavor she ever undertook. Mrs. Henson — who was involved in scores of Tampa organizations and charities — died on Friday of Alzheimer's disease. She was 84.

"She was probably one of the most outstanding civic activists in the city of Tampa's history," said Jan Platt, a former Hillsborough County commissioner and a member of Citizens Alert. "She would gather the facts and present them to the people who would make a difference."

Former Mayor Dick Greco remembers Mrs. Henson as an effective leader, particularly on police matters.

"She loved the place and loved many aspects of what the city of Tampa was about, and police was one of them," said Greco.

Her Citizens Alert group also monitored courtrooms and kept attendance records on judges — several of whom were not re-elected after Citizens Alert reported their absenteeism to the public.

The granddaughter of Angel de LaMadrid Cuesta, who founded Cuesta Rey Cigars in 1884, Mrs. Henson spent several years of her childhood in Havana.

Asthma, poor vision and a heart murmur kept her out of school even after the family moved to Tampa in 1935. She entered Plant High School in her junior year.

In college, her vision improved. She raced through her 20s, studying photography in Vermont and modeling in New York.

She went on a blind date with Bill Henson, a naval officer who wanted to be a lawyer and understood her passions — mysteries, historical novels and digging beneath the surface of things. They married and had two kids.

She served on numerous boards — everything from the Tampa Philharmonic to Tampa General Hospital. She also founded an Easter Seal Guild in Hillsborough County and co-founded the Tampa Historical Society. She created a cookbook for people with disabilities. She did all that while running a store, Nonita's Accessory Loft, for the better part of 20 years.

"My mother was probably ADD," said her son, Kirk Henson, 51. "She could throw a lot of balls up in the air, and somehow they all came down where they were supposed to."

Andrew Meacham can be reached at ameacham@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2431.

>>Biography

Nonita Cuesta Henson

Born: April 9, 1924.

Died: Dec. 5, 2008.

Survivors: daughter, Karla Grant; son, Kirk Henson; and six grandchildren.

Service: 11 a.m. Thursday, Hyde Park Presbyterian Church, 1309 Swann Ave.

Civic activist helped shape Tampa of today 12/08/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 10, 2008 12:27pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Senate GOP set to release health-care bill (w/video)

    National

    WASHINGTON -— Senate Republicans on Thursday plan to release a health-care bill that would curtail federal Medicaid funding, repeal taxes on the wealthy and eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood as part of an effort to fulfill a years-long promise to undo Barack Obama's signature health-care law.

    From left, Uplift Executive Director Heidi Mansir, of Gardiner, Maine, former West Virginia State Rep. Denise Campbell, Elkins, W. Va., University of Alaska-Anchorage student Moira Pyhala of Soldotna, Alaska, and National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson appear before Democratic senators holding a hearing about how the GOP health care bill could hurt rural Americans, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, June 21, 2017. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was expected to push for a vote next week on the legislation, which would eliminate much of Obama's 2010 overhaul and leave government with a diminished role in providing coverage and helping people afford it. [Associated Press]
  2. Pasco fire station reopens after hundreds of bats forced crews out

    Human Interest

    Fire crews have returned to a Hudson fire station nearly two weeks after they were forced out by possibly thousands of bats.

    Fire crews returned to Station 39 in Hudson on June 21, 2017, nearly twoo weeks after the building was closed due to a rat infestation. [Times files]
  3. Church of England head says it 'colluded with' sex abuse

    Religion

    LONDON — The Church of England "colluded" with and helped to hide the long-term sexual abuse of young men by one of its former bishops, the head of the church said Thursday.

  4. Looking Back: St. Petersburg does the Calypso with Jacques Cousteau (July 15, 1975)

    Celebrities

    This story appeared in the pages of the St. Petersburg Times on July 15, 1975. What follows is the text of the original story, interspersed with photos of the event taken by Times staff photographer Weaver Tripp.

    Jacques Cousteau (center), Sen. John T. Ware, R-St. Petersburg (left) and an unidentified man (right) speak to the media about potentially moving the Cousteau Society to the city of St. Petersburg.

TIMES | Weaver Tripp
  5. Hernando commissioners question sheriff's accounting of federal inmate dollars

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — As Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis and his staff presented his proposed 2017-18 budget earlier this month, county Commissioner Steve Champion threw out an unexpected question.

    Sheriff Al Nienhuis and the county fought over his department’s budget last year.