At 90, Henner heads to college
Edna Henner is gearing up for another semester at Western Nevada Community College.
She has her book in cultural geography and is just waiting for classes to start.
The fact that Henner is 90 and “has a curiosity bump about everything” has drawn looks from her classmates since she started taking classes at WNCC several years ago.
“People look at you as much to say, ‘What are you doing in this class?'” Henner said.
The looks haven’t quelled the California native’s passion for learning. She’s taken classes in botany, geology and Spanish, three years of which convinced her she had no talent as a linguist. A class in European history inspired her to take a Mediterranean cruise where she traveled to Athens, several Greek islands and missed Turkey’s second large earthquake by only a day.
At an age when most people find excuses to slow down, Henner is definitely finding all sorts of things to be excited about. She insists she has too much left to learn to slow down.
“I’m a jack of all trades, master of none,” Henner said. “I always used to tell my husband I was a chameleon on a Scotch plaid. I’ve kept up with everything except computers. Every time I turn around there’s something that intrigues me.”
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Henner has made her living as an interior designer. She has a passion for antique lace and interesting textiles, furniture and knickknacks, and her Carson City home is something akin to a museum.
Framed embroidered art pieces from China, Japan, Mexico and several European countries mingle on her walls with paintings and her own needle work. Henner looks at the work with an expert’s eye, pointing out the different stitching and use of threads that makes each piece special. Needlepoint. Petty point. Rose point. Bargello. Single threads, knotted threads.
Henner lives in a world where textiles are more than pretty additions to a home. Where one would look and see a piece of lace, Henner sees time, patience and craftsmanship melding into a piece of art.
Her collection includes textiles more than 200 years old. She collects and designs furniture and textile pieces on the premise that the pieces have meaning and depth to them.
Henner used to decorate homes and businesses in Southern California, and many of her pieces are things she bought to use in her business, and ended up keeping. A painting meant for a psychiatric office that examines the person, conscious and subconscious of a person hangs in her living room.
Other times, her taste didn’t suit her customer. Once, she was decorating a mortuary and found a Picasso painting from his blue period. Henner thought the painting’s mood would suit the mortuary. When she took the painting in, the proprietor said he would never hang it up because it looked like a bad case of embalming.
Henner graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1942. After her graduation, she taught interior design, fashion design and illustration and the art of dress at UCLA for 26 years. She is a member of several national and international design organization.
“I’ve always been a person who enjoyed sewing,” she said.
A Carson City resident since 1982, Henner still does interior design work for her friends. She recently finished a home at Lake Tahoe for a woman Henner describes as being very dramatic with a Scottish conservative husband.
She did the family room in animal prints, another room in an oriental theme and the bed room in Scottish plaid, weaving blues, grays and other neutral colors through the house.
“A home should express the person who lives in it,” Henner said. “Home decoration is different in that you have to be sensitive of the person who lives in the home.”
Still highly conscious of fashion, Henner believes today’s fashion is sorely lacking.
“Fashion has come to a screeching halt,” she said. “There’s no real design anymore. The only thing that changes in design from year to year is color. The younger generations dress very informal, very casual unless there’s a wedding or a special party. There was a time when you went to dinner, you dressed for dinner. Life has to have high’s and lows. When you dress you have a special feeling for yourself and the event. It creates a high.”
An avid traveler, Henner said she still has exploring and learning left to do in her life.
“Each thing you explore, every class you take gives you a new door,” Henner said. “I don’t know what’s out there, but there will be something new for me around the corner.”