A search for his roots leads a Tulsan to expand his business.
Matt Henderson met his biological father 15 years ago in California. Henderson has since expanded his Tulsa-based insurance company to Newport Beach, where he and his dad, Jerry Roby (on left) play golf on Saturdays.
Courtesy Matt Henderson
The unsolicited, unsigned letter asked seemingly random questions. So, it was tossed in the trash with the rest of Jerry Roby’s junk mail.
“The letter said something about great opportunities, blah blah blah, and it asked about being in the Washington, D.C., area in 1967,” says Roby, who lives in Newport Beach, California.
“About an hour later, I said to my wife, ‘That scam letter is interesting because I was in the D.C. area in 1967. Maybe I ought to check it out.’”
Little did Roby know, his biological son Matt Henderson, a Tulsan and president of Henderson Financial Group, had been trying to locate his parents for more than a decade.
The letter was the younger man’s attempt to make contact with Roby, who he believed to be his biological father. The older man didn’t know Henderson existed.
Henderson and his adopted sister were reared on a Muskogee farm.
“We were always brought up that we were chosen, we were special — being adopted was a neat thing,” he says.
“I never even thought about who my biological parents were. But then, two things happened. I had my son, and that kind of makes you think about genes and life.
“Then, my sister met her biological mother. They were identical — the way they talked, looked, laughed, mannerisms. My curiosity piqued.”
Henderson knew he had been adopted in Washington, D.C. In 1990, he contacted its Lutheran Social Services Agency and inquired about the process of finding his parents. The agency located his biological mother, but she didn’t wish to be contacted.
Time passed with no further information. Nine years later, Henderson received a call from a clerk with the superior court of Washington, D.C. After discovering his unresolved file, the court began searching again and sent the letter that ended up in Roby’s trashcan.
The letter linked the father and son, who were separated by 32 years and half the country.
Henderson and Roby first talked by phone in March 2000, and just weeks later, a nervous Henderson and his son Kelly flew to Newport Beach to visit.
“My experience in meeting and spending time with Jerry as my father was so incredibly fulfilling to understanding who I am, because we’re so much alike — the good, the bad and the ugly,” Henderson says.
After years of frequent visits to Newport Beach, Henderson expanded his Tulsa-based life and disability insurance company by adding a Newport Beach office. These days, he spends three weeks out of the month in California and one week in Oklahoma. Every Saturday, you’ll find the father-son duo playing golf together at the Newport Beach Country Club.
“I’m a legal resident of the state of California, but Tulsa is always my home,” Henderson says. “It’s my roots, and I will always come back.”