KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The East Tennessee History Center is mourning for the longtime director, Cherel Jean Bolin Henderson, the executive director of East Tennessee Historical Society, who died Sunday, July 3.

Henderson was well known in the historical society for work she’s done within the East Tennessee History Center. She was raised in Jefferson County where she attended Rush Strong High School.

“She was fascinated by history from an early age and often preferred the company of her elders at family gatherings, listening on the front porch as they discussed the ‘old ways,'” according to the obituary.

She started working at a JCPenney in downtown Knoxville, but her interest in historical events led her to join the East Tennessee Historical Society.

During her time at the historical society, she worked on the staff in 1987, was promoted to associate director in 1995, and became the executive director.

Henderson continued her work by becoming the founding director of the ETHS Tennessee Bicentennial family heritage program, First Families of Tennessee, which has about 17,000 members, including internationally.

She was also editor of the book, “First Families of Tennessee: A Register of Early Settlers and Their Present-Day Descendants.”

In 2004, she completed the East Tennessee History Center’s renovation of the Old Custom House and the addition that houses the Museum of East Tennessee History. She also directed the design and construction of the museum’s signature exhibition, Voices of the Land and The People of the East Tennessee.

Her family remembers her as someone who loved to travel and had compassion for animals. She was known to carry birdseeds and peanuts with her in case she encounters any birds or squirrels.

Henderson’s private family graveside service will be held Friday, July 8 at Pleasant Grove Piney Baptist Church in New Market.