Close Encounters of The "Great" Kind with Heather French Henry
Updated: Nov 30, 2022
By Renee Collins Cobb, M.Ed.
Everything great that has happened to me has also almost never happened at all....
In 2014, a lot of those great things that almost never happened at all...happened while I unintentionally embarked on a time of great personal and professional change - both publicly and privately. Much of those things quite by circumstance built off of something else planned, I started encountering some people who I didn't personally know at the time, while also being people who had played a tremendous role in my own personal and professional stories over many years - including some childhood ones. This trend, by the way continued and has continued to this point in my life through the work I have done since 2014. This one, however, was extra special in that it is one I experienced with my Mother. This Trip Down Memory Lane Tour of 2014 reminded me that much of what happens in life is simply a result of really great timing and an ability at the time to connect what is happening at the moment with a memory or time we have experienced many years ago.
On November 27, 2014, I was actually on the way to Maysville, KY to meet my mom and friends for our annual day after Thanksgiving lunch and shopping date. It was a half-way point between Cincinnati - where I lived at the time and Ashland - where my Mom lived at the time.
They had called me to tell me they were at Augusta, KY on a stop. So I was instructed to meet them there. Little did I know what was in store with a great connection to a time I had shared with my Mother growing up - watching the Miss America Pageant together annually.
As I entered into the beautiful quaint town of Augusta, KY, the big blue sign caught my eye and as a Miss America enthusiast who remembers everything possible about the night Heather Renee French won the title of Miss America than anyone could ever imagine, I stopped to take a picture of this sign at the entry point into Augusta, KY.
I found my mom immediately as this town is so small you do not need a roadmap to navigate. When I spotted her walking down the street (and by that I mean literally walking down THE street), I parked and we started walking and saw this statue which I, of course, had to photograph as well. My childhood memories came flowing through my mind as I recalled how many times Mom and me sat in front of a TV with a scorecard I had made so we could "judge" the competition from the comforts and convenience of my childhood home in Catlettsburg, KY - all the while hoping the new Miss America would be from Kentucky. So naturally we stopped to pay homage to the great Kentuckian- Heather Renee French Henry
When I started inquiring about a place to go to the rest room, Mom told me to go down to the little gift shop and cafe where they had visited earlier. I went inside and Heather French Henry and the former Lt Governor/Dr. Steve Henry were RIGHT THERE.
I went to get mom who quietly confirmed my Miss America sighting and, not wanting to bother them while enjoying a breakfast with their two lovely daughters, we went on our way heading towards Rosemary Clooneys house when we noticed Dr. Henry was following us and told us he was going to unlock the home and invited us to come inside.
So we get inside, Dr. Henry most graciously guiding us through each room and there... is our heaven...a place that combined what I consider to be everything that is great in my opinion, a Clooney Family Tree, Rosemary Clooney's and Bing Crosby's White Christmas wardrobe and memorabilia from her other films, a George Clooney wardrobe from "My Brother, Where Art Thou and other films, his elementary school sports trophies, magazine covers and best of all..wait for it...the Miss America room with Miss America 2000 Heather French's evening gown from the competition, her first pageant dress and much, much more!
Fast forward to my "Dream Big" tapes to a time in history in 2019 where I was and am now the host of two shows that broadcast on Lexington Community Radio- now known as Radiolex. Heather Renee French Henry- who had served the state of Kentucky for MANY years in Veterans Affairs -had agreed to come to the studio to do an interview for a cross over event with Mark Royce's Community Voices and my show "GrayMatters".
Mark had also had a close encounter with Heather of the "great" kind as well and we were so eager to meet her and welcome her into the studio for a short while to talk about her run for Kentucky Secretary of State as well as the 20th Anniversary of winning Miss America - the only Miss Kentucky who captured the title 100 years. history.
So I add this to the great number of life experiences that have just simply happened with no effort planning at all that re-ignites that special memory or dream I have had at some point in life.
This Year of 2014 included those close encounters of seeing Jack Givens, The McLain Family, UK Cheer Team childhood besties, and seeing Miss America!
And the beauty of all of these collective experiences is- I can say-- with complete confidence...
Everything great that has happened to me this year and throughout life almost never happened at all!
Thanks to The Henry's for opening the Rosemary Clooney home to us and for giving me and my Mother the ride of a lifetime and a special memory originating from my childhood with my Mom.
Please visit this incredible place if time presents over the holidays and share a special memory with me about what Miss America, White Christmas and George Clooney have meant to you in the past!