James Henry, a former fisherman and author who lives on the Groton side of Mystic and learned how to read in his 90s, has received letter of commendation from the White House.
Congressman Joe Courtney, D-2, delivered the letter Monday to Henry, who visited Ledyard Center School to share the moment with a class of third grade students.
“I always wanted to learn to read and write,” Henry said. “I used to cry because I wanted to go to school, I never had the opportunity to learn.”
Courtney read the letter, signed by President Barak Obama, aloud to an assembly of students, faculty and legislators including State Sens. Edith Prague, D-19 and Andrew Maynard, D-18 and State Reps. Elissa Wright, D-41 and Diana Urban, D-43.
“Your remarkable story reminds us that it is never too late to take on new challenges and master new skills,” wrote Obama in the letter.
Henry learned to read and write in his 90s and he published his first book, "In a Fisherman’s Language," at age 98. He wanted to share the special recognition with the .
“I’ve heard of great inspirations but you are on top of the list ,” wrote Sasha Oakes in a letter to Henry. “You’ve inspired me and soon a lot of people to keep on doing amazing things.”
Henry wasn’t given the opportunity to learn how to read and write because he was taken out of school at a young age by his father who needed him to work.
He was inspired to learn after hearing of George Dawson, author of “Life is so Good,” who also learned to read and write in his 90s.
“He calls him Georgie,” said Henry’s grand-daughter Marisa McLaughlin of Pawcatuck. “He has read the book so many times, he feels like he knows the guy.”
Henry said he has begun a second book and his favorite books so far are “Life is so Good” by Richard Glaubman and George Dawson, “Daily Word For Healing” by Colleen Zuck and, Healthy at 100 by John Robbins.
“I love reading,” he said. “I know I’m doing better all the time.”