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Murder victim remembered

By Joanie Morris and Shavonne Potts

Kannapolis Citizen

As Henry Aldridge’s family and friends gathered at his mother’s home last Wednesday, they remembered only good things.

Heather Helms discovered her father’s body in his home last Monday afternoon. He had been shot. It’s a memory she would like to forget. Instead, she remembers the good things about her father — his life and love of his family and horses.

“He first put me on a horse when I was 18 months old,” said Helms, who paused to wipe tears from her eyes. “I was always called ‘Henry’s Little Shadow.’ I was right in his footsteps at horse sales and wagon trains.”

Her father gave her a love of horses, just as his father had done for him long ago.

“He kind of kept me tied up in riding, and I stayed out of trouble,” Helms said. “There’s so much I could say. He’s just such a wonderful man. I wouldn’t trade him for nothing.”

The baby of the family, Henry Aldridge had two sisters and three brothers. All but one lives within a 15-mile radius of Aldridge’s home. His brother Bobbie recalled when Henry was first exposed to horses, much the same way he taught his daughter.

“His daddy put him on horses when he was a baby,” said Bobbie Aldridge.

“When he was a baby,” Johnnie Aldridge echoed.

Brother Frank said some of his best memories of Henry Aldridge came from “riding with him, wagons and stuff like that.”

“He loved everybody,” Frank Aldridge said.

Henry Aldridge was a member of the Brown Mountain Wagon Train, and he loved hitching up with 25 to 30 other wagons and about 150 horseback riders. These trains took him everywhere, brothers said. Aldridge had seven horses and he liked to trade and swap.

“Just to get together and have a good time on the weekends,” said Bobbie Aldridge.

Along with his brothers, Bobbie, Johnnie and Frank, along with one of his sisters, Emmie Trexler, talked fondly of the brother who they say was most comfortable around his horses.

“I just know he loved his family and his animals,” said Trexler.

“I sure miss him,” Bobbie Aldridge added.

Henry Aldridge’s employer and longtime friend, Herman Cline, also spoke more of his friend’s love of horses, riding and trading.

Cline owns Herman’s Construction in Kannapolis and said Wednesday that he’d known Henry Aldridge all his life.

Aldridge worked for the construction company for two years as a carpenter.

“He loved horses and built horse wagons. He’d take the kids for horse rides,” Cline said.

He said he would consider Aldridge in pretty good shape for a man who worked every day.

On the weekends, Aldridge rode horses. Rowan County Sheriff’s officials said he was supposed to go riding with a friend Sunday but never showed up.

Cline said he knew Aldridge spent his weekends on rides with a local saddle club.

Henry Aldridge enjoyed hunting and fishing, too.

“He was my baby,” his mother said through tears. “He loved his animals. He liked to be around animals.”

He much preferred to be outside, tending his animals, than in his house, Grace Aldridge said.

“He’d stop by and see me,” she said. She lives on Goldfish Road, just past the turn to where Henry Aldridge lived on Michelle Drive. “I could see him coming out.”

She would often watch him riding his horses and wagons up and down the road.

Henry Aldridge turned 54 in November, and while he didn’t have a party with his family, Grace Aldridge said his wagon train had a party for him.

“We’d love to watch him ride up and down the road in them wagons,” Pat Hammock, Bobbie Aldridge’s fiancé, said. “He’d ride by and wave.”

His father, Arthur, died as the result of a car accident in 1964, and Henry treasured the time with him, family members said.

Grace Aldridge remembers just a week ago, a family member gave Henry Aldridge a 5-by-7 picture of his father. “You’ve made my week,” he said by way of thanks.

Helms said Aldridge was more like his dad than anyone.

“He’s got Arthur’s name, and he took after his daddy,” Helms said. “Daddy talked to me about his daddy a lot.”

She and her father spent a lot of time together. She lives next door to Henry Aldridge’s 1975 Michelle Drive home, where her dad kept horses, goats and various other animals. “He helped me with anything I ever needed. He took care of me.

“I always dreamed of having a log house, and him and Uncle Johnnie and my husband built me a house,” Helms said.

In return, she always tried to help him in any way she could.

“I kind of had him a little spoiled,” Helms recalled. “I’d call and say ‘Daddy, come down and eat,’ and he’d say, ‘I done took my shoes off,’ and I’d say, ‘Well, I’ll bring it to you.’ ”

His brothers and mother echoed the same words — that he’d help you if needed.

“If you needed him, you called him and he’d help,” recalled Bobbie Aldridge.

One thing that the family is not happy with is the way the investigation was handled in the beginning, Bobbie Aldridge said.

“The immediate family should know what happened to someone before it comes on television,” Bobbie Aldridge said. While his daughter found him, Bobbie Aldridge said the rest of the family had to find out that he’d been shot on television. “We’re mad because the detectives would not tell us nothing, and it got out on the news. That’s not right.

“They had it on the television,” Bobbie Aldridge said. “Even if they’re in the service, they send someone to let you know.”

“We wouldn’t know nothing if it wasn’t for the funeral home,” Emmie Trexler added.

The family went to Lady’s Funeral Home last Tuesday night and learned from a person there what had happened to Henry Aldridge, including where he was shot.

“I know one thing,” Grace Aldridge said. “He’ll really be missed, not just in the family, but the people that knew him.”

Contact Joanie Morris at 704-932-3336 or jmorris@kannapoliscitizen.com and Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253 or spotts@salisburypost.com.

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