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'That's the way it is': TV news legend Hendo passes away at 89

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Legendary television news anchor Brian Henderson, “the most trusted face on Australian television”, has died aged 89 after multiple battles with cancer.

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Henderson anchored the Nine Network’s news bulletin from 1957 until his retirement in 2002 and famously always ended his newscasts with “and that’s the way it is” .

After surviving bowel, prostate, throat and skin cancers, Henderson learned in 2019 that his doctors had detected a kidney tumour.

At 88, the retired newsreader chose not to have chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery.

His only concern was for his wife of 48 years, Mardi, “who may be a bit lonely when I’m gone”.

“I’m not afraid of death – in fact, I welcome it,” he told The Daily Telegraph in February 2020.

“I’ve had a wonderful life. How blessed can you be?”

Henderson died in Sydney early on Thursday morning.

Current Nine News anchor Peter Overton said Henderson was the most trusted face on Australian television and renowned for his professionalism and integrity.

“He fought hard, he was peaceful and that’s what gave the family so much comfort,” Overton told Sydney’s 2GB radio.

“He was part of the fabric at Channel Nine, part of the fabric of the Australian media.”

Nine’s Today host Karl Stefanovic said Henderson was “an absolute gentleman … a total professional who provided guidance and inspiration for so many colleagues and generations who followed”.

Henderson, who was recognised with many Australian honours, was born in New Zealand on September 15, 1931.

His broadcasting career began after he contracted tuberculosis while attending Waitiki Boys’ High.

During the three years he spent convalescing at a sanatorium, he became the facility’s resident disc jockey before joining radio 4ZB in Dunedin at 16.

In 1953, he moved across the Tasman and landed a job on Sydney radio station 2CH, making the shift to television at Nine in 1957.

He first appeared on the small screen reading the weekend news but took a diversion when he was chosen to host Australia’s teen music show Accent on Youth in 1958.

Despite his mild-mannered nature and conservative dress sense, he became an icon among young Australians on the pop music show that became Bandstand.

Henderson became Nine News’ Sydney weeknight presenter in 1964 and continued to front Bandstand until its last episode in 1972.

Four years into the premier news reading job, “Hendo” won the Gold Logie for Most Popular Personality on Australian Television. He won another Gold Logie in 2013, having been inducted into the Logies Hall of Fame.

One of the few people in his position with little journalistic experience, Henderson’s career was solely dedicated to newsreading and he was widely credited for helping Nine achieve its top-rating news position.

On November 29, 2002, the nation’s longest-serving TV news presenter told almost a million viewers it was time to hang up the microphone.

His sign-off: “Not the way it was, as has been suggested, but for the last time, the way it is … this is Brian Henderson – a sad Brian Henderson – saying not goodnight, this time, but goodbye.”

He was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2009 for his service in the television news and entertainment sectors.

Cancer battles absorbed some of his later years – most notably his throat cancer, which required 36 weeks of radiation therapy in 2014.

He is survived by Mardi and their two children, Nicole and Jody. Henderson also had two children from an earlier marriage.

Nine Entertainment chairman Peter Costello said Henderson was “iconic” and the face of news for a generation of Australians.

Nine news director Darren Wick said Henderson was “idolised by every one of us lucky enough to have worked with him”.

“He was the epitome of credibility, reliability and clarity. He set the standard that we aspire to live up to every night of the week,” Wick said.

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