Sheila May (Leonard) Henderson, September 9, 1936 — March 4, 2024

Date of Death

Sheila May (Leonard) Henderson passed away peacefully on March 4, 2024, at Burbank Hills Comfort Living with her beloved husband and family by her side. She was 87 years old.

Sheila was born in Chicago, Illinois, on September 9, 1936, and movie production was as much a part of her blood as her Irish-Swiss ancestry.  In 1930, her father, William George “Bill” Leonard, had aspired to attend Notre Dame—but fate in the form of the 1929 Stock Market crash and Great Depression intervened—so he sought work and became a motion picture projectionist by age 21. In his personal life, however, his Irish luck prevailed.  Bill met and married Gertrude Elizabeth Schildknecht—the daughter of immigrants from St. Gallen, Switzerland, and the couple was blessed by the birth of Sheila. In 1939, when the Hollywood movie industry had eclipsed both the Chicago and New York industries, Bill moved his young family to Burbank where he began working for Twentieth Century Fox. In 1948, the Leonards welcomed another girl, Shawn Ellen, Shelia’s only sibling.

After a pampered childhood spent in sunny Burbank, Sheila graduated in 1954 from Burbank High School and later met Robert George “Bob” Henderson (also of Irish heritage) while she was attending Los Angeles Valley College. He became the “love of her life”. Shortly after Sheila and Bob met, Bob’s mother, Sid, who was the family breadwinner as a stenographer at Dun & Bradstreet, became ill and Bob needed to leave college and get a job to support his family. It was then that Sheila’s father, Bill, who worked for Deluxe Lab as a projectionist, was able to get Bob his first job in the industry at Deluxe. With a steady job and good income, Sheila and Bob married in Las Vegas on May 7, 1955. After saving a down payment, Sheila and Bob purchased a house on Pass Avenue in 1957 across the street from Sheila’s parents. Bob ultimately became a supervising sound effects editor for multiple production companies. Sheila’s connections and Bob’s success became like a family heirloom passed down from one generation to the next.  In 1977, Sheila’s daughter Lynnell’s husband, Alan R. Murray, joined Bob’s team, working with Bob on dozens of motion pictures – from the Lethal Weapons to Lady Hawke and many Clint Eastwood movies. Sheila’s daughter, Brooke, also worked with her father as first assistant sound effects editor for over 20 years. Over the years, Lynnell’s three children have all worked in the motion picture industry and Brooke’s son-in-law, Nicholas Elwell, works in the studio industry. Thus, starting with Bill Leonard, Sheila’s family has left an amazing legacy in the entertainment industry.

Sheila and Bob welcomed four daughters into their lives—Lynnell Ann, Erin May, Brooke Ellen, and Melanie Lynn – and the close family bond was sacred to Sheila. Sheila was very involved in PTA during the period that her children attended schools.

Smart, stylish, and witty Sheila read avidly, traveled eagerly throughout life, loved her pets, and enjoyed social activities. Besides cruises, camping, and touring Europe, a trip to Ireland was a high point since both Sheila and Bob were descended from Irish immigrants. While Sheila never considered herself an athlete, she loved and was very talented at bowling and golf. She and Bob also frequented the Burbank Dance Club where she planned events for years. On weekends, the Hendersons relaxed at their beautiful beach house in Ventura, the site of countless family barbeques and beach activities.

Sheila was predeceased by her parents, her father-in-law George Robert Henderson, mother-in law Sarah Catherine (Donovan) Henderson, daughters Lynnell and Erin, and son-in-law Alan R. Murray.

Besides her sister, Shawn, and Bob—her husband of almost 69 years—Sheila is survived by a large and loving family: her daughter Brooke Henderson Ward (Tony); daughter Melanie Henderson; grandchildren from daughter Lynnell Ann Henderson: Blu Murray, Kevin R. W. Murray, Hailey Murray Wenger (Christian); from daughter Erin May Baker: Lauren Michelle Brewer (Breck) and Lacy Lynnell Carroll (Lance); from daughter Brooke Henderson Ward: Carlie Donovan Elwell (Nicholas) and Anthony Christopher “Ace” Ward, Jr. (Claire); and from daughter Melanie Henderson Spencer (David): Hogan Henderson.

Sheila and Bob also shared 12 great-grandchildren: Dillon, Teague, Sadie and Claire Brewer; Violet and Thadius Carroll; Collins and Sutton Lilly Elwell; Hayden Wenger; and Emery, Monroe and Odin Henderson.

The memorial service will be private. Donations may be made in Sheila’s name to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation