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Homeless advocate killed in car wreck

Jody Henry helped his wife run the Holy Ground shelter in Hudson. His passing leaves a void.

By TAMARA LUSH

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 9, 2000


HUDSON -- As the owner of the Holy Ground homeless shelter, Lisa Barabas-Henry has saved hundreds of people from the cold, from hunger and from themselves.

Now, Barabas-Henry has lost her savior.

photo
[Times photo: Carrie Pratt]
Lisa Barabas-Henry hugs her son, Lance, 12, on Tuesday after looking over family photos of her husband, Jody Henry, who died in a car wreck Monday.
At about 10 p.m. Monday night, Barabas-Henry's husband, Jody Henry, died when his Corvette slammed into a utility pole at the corner of U.S. 19 and Aripeka Road.

Barabas-Henry isn't sure whether she can continue running the shelter, which cares for more than 50 homeless, without her husband's love and support.

"He wouldn't want me to stop now," she said. "But I'm so used to having him here."

Henry called his wife about 9:30 Monday night. "I told him to hurry up and come home," said Barabas-Henry.

About a half-hour later, the electricity went out at Barabas-Henry's mobile home. After living on the shelter property for nine years, Barabas-Henry's electricity goes out occasionally -- usually when a car crashes into a utility pole nearby.

She said that she went to look for the accident, and as she drove north, she noticed her husband's red Corvette, mangled and dented. Then she saw someone drape a sheet over his body.

Florida Highway Patrol troopers said Henry was driving toward U.S. 19 on Aripeka Drive, when he swerved to avoid a stopped car. Henry lost control of his car, and slid across the south and north lanes of U.S. 19, then struck a utility pole. Henry, who was 34, was ejected from the car, authorities said.

"It doesn't make any sense," said Barabas-Henry, 41. "None of it makes any sense."

The couple met about three years ago, when Henry's brother was staying at the shelter, said Barabas-Henry. He came from California. She was recovering from an abusive marriage, the death of a son and drug addiction -- and was trying to help others who had lived in a similar hell.

[Times photo: Carrie Pratt]
Lance Barabas looks over what remains of the Corvette that Jody Henry was driving.

Family members said it was love at first sight.

Henry loved to make people laugh, enjoyed boating and could never keep money in his pocket, said his wife.

"He would always give it away," she said. "He would do anything for anybody."

With qualities like that, Henry fit right in to Barabas' life. He helped her run the shelter, donate food to Pasco's poor and care for the homeless who showed up each day. The shelter also aids people recovering from drugs and alcohol, and Henry had a kind word and a joke for everyone, no matter what their troubles were, said family members.

They were married in April 1998. Henry also was a mentor to her three sons, ages 16, 14 and 12.

"He was their best friend," she said.

The couple had planned to move the shelter in the coming year. They had bought a 6-acre parcel on U.S. 19, just north of the existing shelter, and had hoped that 150 people would make it a temporary home.

On Tuesday, the shelter's residents hugged Barabas-Henry, whose eyes were red and puffy from crying.

Two white crosses leaned against the family's porch, where Henry used to sit and chat with the shelter's residents. "Jody we love you," one said. "Fisher of Men," said another.

Faith plays a big part in the Holy Ground community -- all residents must attend church -- and now, Barabas-Henry will need to rely on hers.

"I don't know why God can't bring him back," she whispered.

To donate to the Holy Ground shelter in Jody Henry's memory, write: 8835 Denton Ave., Hudson, FL 34667.

- Information from Times files was used in this report.

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