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Dr. Philip Henderson III

Dr. Philip Henderson III committed suicide Friday at his Longview home.

Dr. Philip Henderson III, a beloved physician who delivered thousands of local children during more than three decades of practice, died Friday night of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his Longview home.

Cowlitz County Coroner Tim Davidson put the time of death at about 8:30 p.m.

Henderson, 63, was married and had two grown daughters, one of whom is in a medical residency in Illinois.

His death came as a shock to the medical community and the patients he had served for more than 30 years.

“It is devastating. He was so well respected by the medical community and revered by his patients,” said Joan Landeau, a member of the St. John Medical Center Board of Directors. “I was in Seattle when I heard. I was speechless. I couldn’t think about anything else.”

Henderson was due this week to close the Longview Women’s Clinic, from which four generations of Hendersons provided women’s health care. Henderson’s great-grandfather opened the Longview clinic in 1924. In turn it was run by his grandfather Phillip Henderson and father, Phillip Henderson Jr.

Henderson, who’d been practicing at the clinic since 1980, cited a range of problems that led to his decision to close, including the difficulty of recruiting obstetrician/gynecologists and conflicts between Kaiser Permanente and PeaceHealth that have led to a decline in patients for local independent medical clinics.

“I know that the ending of his practice was very difficult for him,” Landeau said. “Phillip’s life was about his patients and his family. He went to all lengths for his patients.”

P-3, as his patients affectionately called him, estimated that he had delivered about 6,000 children.

“I adored him. His patients adored him. I can’t imagine going on working without him beside me,” said Maria Magnuson, who was a nurse practitioner at the clinic and whose own three children were delivered by Henderson in the 1980s.

Magnuson, who had been a nurse at the clinic from 1985 to 1990 and a nurse practitioner there from 2005 until last month, said Henderson was uncommonly committed to his profession and to his patients.

“He was dedicated like no physician ever can be again,” said Magnuson, of Longview.

Henderson kept an enjoyable workplace, always ready to lighten the mood with his sense of humor, she said.

“He always had everybody in stitches,” Magnuson said.

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His death is all the more shocking, she said, “because he showed us all how to be leaders. He was infallible — the way he knew how to comfort everyone. He knew how to comfort all of his patients. He was brilliant.

“Every one of his patients meant so much to him.”

Henderson earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Puget Sound in 1971 and his medical degree from Tulane University in 1976. He completed his residency at Emory University in 1980.

His longtime friend, Longview dentist John Berwind, recalled a happy memory from when he and Henderson were students in New Orleans.

Henderson, a medical student at Tulane, came to borrow a doctor’s coat from Berwind, who was a resident at Charity Hospital.

“That way he could go into the doctors’ dinning room, which was one of the finest restaurants in New Orleans. It had the best seafood gumbo, and it was all free.”

Henderson, Berwind said, “wasn’t beyond him to call you up in the middle of the work day to tell you a joke. He was just that kind of a person.”

Berwind, who grew up with Henderson and was once married to his sister, was still trying to fathom his death. He spent much of the weekend with Henderson’s family — his wife, Christina, and two daughters.

“Everyone is pretty devastated, and everyone is asking the same question: ‘Why?’ Phillip was loved like not many other people. His staff loved him. His patients loved him. I loved him. He was like a brother to me.”

Henderson was an “excellent” doctor, Berwind said, because he “took the time to make (his patients) comfortable and keep them informed.”

Henderson was a fantastic mentor, Magnuson said.

“I respected his judgment and his opinion. He was always open to me coming to him with a case that I needed (advice). He never made me feel like I was imposing,” Magnuson said. “He was one of the best colleagues I ever had. I am so grateful for what he taught me. He has always been by my side with whatever I have gone through in my life.”

Magnuson, who is going to work for PeaceHealth, said her last conversation with Henderson was a sad one, because “it finally hit me that I was not going to have him by my side as I went on to a new practice.”

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