Mitchell Henry was best known for his success on the football field, passion for the outdoors and admiration for his family, including his wife Madison Henry. Their love story and positive outlook on life is something that has brought both strength and inspiration to those around them. At the approach of the two year anniversary of Mitchell’s passing, Madison’s family is able to reflect on the effect this young life had on so many, including their daughter.
Madison, a 2011 graduate of Daviess County High School continued her education at Western Kentucky University where she majored in dental hygiene and was a cheerleader for the all-girls squad. Mitchell, an education major, played football at WKU before starting his career in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers.
From the very beginning of their relationship in 2012, their friends and family knew there was something special about the couple. He first saw her on the sidelines at the football games but eventually, the two would meet face to face with a group of friends who went bowling. Madison’s stepmother, Lori Hayden can remember vividly how quickly the story unfolded.
“He was a football player and she was a cheerleader — that’s always the start of such a neat love story,” Hayden said. “We knew he would be a big guy because he played football but when we first met him, we noticed right away how tall he was. Madison is only five foot and here was Mitchell at 6’5.”
Mitchell is described by those who knew him best as a gentle giant and a man of few words. When he did speak, it was memorable and left a great impression. During his years at Elizabethtown High School, he played basketball, football and baseball, excelling in all sports.
His spare time wasn’t spent chasing girls or partying, instead, he spent his free time outside hunting and fishing. It’s no surprise that he and Madison hit it off so quickly as she held the same interests.
“When Madison was little, she always went hunting with her dad,” Hayden said. “She would bring her sleeping bag and wait until it was time to go.”
Madison and Mitchell were crazy about each other, according to her family, and weren’t typical college students who took part in the party scene. Instead, they were focused on their studies and on training for their sports. He would put in hours in the gym; the two were both always going from early in the morning to late at night, non-stop.
When Mitchell told his parents that he had someone for them to meet, they knew it was significant. He had never brought home a girl before.
“His parents loved her right away,” Hayden recalls. “They immediately embraced her as part of their family.”
The relationship between Mitchell and Madison took off and by November 29, 2014, the two were engaged to be married. In photos from their engagement, the young couple can be seen wearing head to toe camouflage, with their Golden Retriever puppy Jack in Madison’s arms. These pictures serve as a visual representation of their love for nature. Some of their favorite outdoor adventures included fishing and kayaking.
In May of 2015, Madison and Mitchell graduated from WKU ready to take on the world. Mitchell was not in attendance at the graduation ceremony because he had already left for Green Bay. The couple exchanged vows on June 28, 2015, while Mitchell was home from training camp with the Packers.
Time seemed to speed up with travel becoming the new normal for this young couple and their dog.
“I think Jack has been to more states than most humans,” Hayden said.
Around Thanksgiving of 2016, Madison’s dad, Curtis Hayden was going to visit them in Elizabethtown for a Thanksgiving meal. Prior to the visit, he got a phone call from his daughter that concerned him. Madison told her dad that Mitchell had severe shoulder pain and that they would be heading to the hospital. He knew that Mitchell had played sports all of his life and had a high pain tolerance, so any visit to the hospital raised a red flag.
“Dad, it’s bad,” Lori remembers their daughter saying.
An MRI revealed a mass on Mitchell’s chest and on November 29, exactly two years from the day they got engaged, Mitchell was diagnosed with leukemia. He was moved to MD Anderson in Houston, Texas with hopes of getting the very best medical care. There Mitchell received a bone marrow transplant that appeared to be successful, but the road to recovery did not take them where they hoped.
During this time, friends and family rallied around them. Lori remembers seeing Team Mitchell shirts and bracelets all over Owensboro. Several fundraisers and benefits were held as hopes stayed high for his full recovery.
The family was told that the first 100 days are the most crucial post-transplant. Lori recalls her stepdaughter, full of faith, posting bible verses and favorite scriptures all over the room, never leaving Mitchell’s side. She was counting down the days.
“On exactly day 100, Mitchell passed away,” Lori said. “We will never forget that day,” Lori said.
Almost two years have passed since his death and Madison continues to remain close to her mother and father-in-law Lesley and Terry Henry. Madison purchased a beautiful farmhouse in the country that Mitchell’s parents are helping her to renovate.
According to Lori, Madison spends her time planting flowers, beekeeping, raising a large garden of fruits and vegetables and, more recently, working on establishing a foundation in Mitchell’s honor.
“This is keeping her busy,” Lori said. “It’s a way to glorify the beauty of nature. They loved the outdoors. She wants to make Mitchell proud.”