News | June 3, 2014

Navy bids fond farewell to Italian employee with four decades of service

By Lt. Parker Carlisle

The Region Legal Service Office, and the greater Navy community in Naples, bid a farewell to Concetta Henderson on April 29th, 2014, as she retired after over four decades of service. 

As an Italian local national, Mrs. Henderson played a pivotal role assisting in obtaining Sojourner’s permits and visas, dealing with immigration issues, facilitating local marriage permits, and acting as a liaison between the local government, the U.S. Navy, and the U.S. Government. Mrs. Henderson first started working at NSA Naples in 1970. 

Throughout her career, Mrs. Henderson worked exclusively in the legal office, assisting military members, families, civilians and those working in support of the mission and operations here in Italy.  Working for more than fifteen commanding officers, she was the primary expert on Italian citizenship, foreign adoptions, marriages, immigration, and was intimately involved in resolving complex international law issues under the NATO Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), related Italian-U.S. bilateral agreements, and Italian law. 

During this time, her hard work and professionalism have provided a steadfast foundation of knowledge and experience.  Her work was recognized in countless letters of commendation and appreciation from assisted individuals and commands, as well as Civilian of the Quarter and Civilian of the Year designation more than thirty times. In 1999, the Department of the Navy awarded Mrs. Henderson’s the Meritorious Civilian Service Award for her contributions in working closely with the U.S. Embassy in Rome and the Italian government on a SOFA issue dealing with the hiring of dual Italian-U.S. nationals; an issue that affected over three hundred and fifty employees in the Naples area.

“What can you say about Connie, she was professional, dedicated, a people person, and an excellent liaison,” said Silvana Palmese, “she was dedicated to helping people at all hours of the day.”

A bedrock during Area Orientation week, Mrs. Henderson ensured that new arrivals – military members, civilians, contractors and their family members – received the Sojourner’s permit brief, and assisted with the documentation required for continued lawful presence in Italy.  Often she was the first local national that new arrivals encountered, and was well-known known for her ability to provide assistance with immigration issues, and her willingness to respond as needed, no matter how inconvenient.

“Connie’s legacy is the literally thousands of lives of service members, families, and civilians that she has touched at Naples throughout the years,” said Captain Scott Laurer, RLSO Commanding Officer.  She has been described as a “mainstay” and “stalwart” of the Navy legal community in Naples.  She has, in fact, become as a former Executive Officer wrote, “Part of the fabric of the Region Legal Service Office, the Judge Advocate General’s Corps and the Navy.”

Mrs. Henderson’s service came to an official end with a retirement ceremony at the NSA Naples Chapel at Capodichino, where her career was honored by the NSA Naples community.  Upon her retirement, she was presented with her second Meritorious Civilian Service Award, the second highest award to a civilian employee of the federal government.

“I’ll miss my job.  To relate to the people and solve problems was the best part.  It doesn’t even feel like forty-four years,” said Mrs. Henderson.  To Mrs. Henderson, we extend our appreciation for all of her years of services and in keeping with tradition, we bid you “Fair Winds & Following Seas” and Questo e’ un “arrivederci,” non un addio.