Finding Henry


Dear Ones,

Keri here: After all the close Pickett’s were gone I lost touch. Kim was better about keeping up with the Pickett side. Although a part of my past, after I closed up the house, the rest of the family fell off my radar. Looking back, part of the view from over the shoulder shows what is behind us, lost to us. The people and the house.

For a brief moment, it belonged to Kim and I. Once I got there to close out the house I realized the potential of taking the path named Durham, I thought about keeping the house but it all seemed to happen too quickly. By the time I realized I wanted it, wanted to explore school in NC, it was too late.

Grandmother and Granddaddy's house in Old North Durham, NC

Grandmother and Granddaddy’s house in Old North Durham, NC

Birdie was dead. Hard to believe. I was nineteen and overwhelmed and I went to North Carolina to close out the house. Everything had to go including the house. Grandmother’s death meant everything not named in the will was liquified to go into a trust that would happen in the future.

There is dream that returns and replays with stress. The dream goes clockwise from the foyer to the living room to the dining room to the kitchen and around to the bedrooms and bath as the rooms all interconnect. I see Birdie pulling her infant baby Henry in the wagon, going in happy circles. In the dream I wander the halls of this house like a hungry ghost, seeing the objects frozen in time. Each item carefully placed and beautifully presented. The imaginary tour, dreamstate, seems evidence of a life well lived and focused on beauty, enjoying the scene from multiple viewpoints. I see all the objects in the house as Birdie had them. I can trace each object in it’s place. What lives that place nurtured! What about those lives?

Finding Henry

Henry Pickett with his head in his hands, Durham, NC

Mom was busy earning a living and I was in college and it was time to settle the estate. So I went. Kim, you were little and so you stayed in Minnesota too and the house was left to the trust to be divided. The trust lawyer was questionable so the final will was cloudy. In the will. Thy will be done. Done. I thought about trying to transfer to Duke, but I didn’t realize how attached I was to the house until it was time to dismantle it all. Now, with this search to learn about our father, we have to also look at the parents and the house.


Hindsight comforts are real, I have a great family and I am in good hands, perhaps there is a divine plan. I guess it is our fate to do the best we can. Facing another fork. Kim and I are on the road to find out about Henry and his family, however, in the case of the house, we can only go to the door once to ask to see the kitchen. Rearview vision, hindsight, unable to return to the past, but needing to know so two sisters stand in the street and look at the house seeing both the past and the present.

With eyes on the back of my head, Keri


Henry and Birdie Pickett built this house in Old North Durham after they married.



Interior view.

Dear Friends,

Keri here: We are slowly figuring out how to structure this site. There are a lot of pieces in this story and we are sorting out the pieces. The Pickett house in Durham is at the center of the story. Like a wheel with spokes, this house is the hub. The Renoir print in the beautiful antique frame hanging above the fireplace, now hangs in my bedroom, so I am reminded of this house yet – still – always.

It bears saying again; Henry and Birdie built this house. The fireplace had fake logs but I bet it worked. Each object in the house was purchased by Birdie. Birdie loved beauty. But she was never obsessed about a clean house. She used to say “If I had to pick up after myself, I wouldn’t get anything else done.”

But thinking back on it she kept her house tidy and together, her kitchen was the only room that revealed the depth and scope of her activities.

I feel the same about the housework!

Your untidy, Keri

Henry and Birdie Pickett's living room on Glendale Ave in Durham, NC.

Henry and Birdie Pickett’s living room on Glendale Ave in Durham, NC.

What’s in a house?

Kim Mahling Clark

Kim Mahling Clark

Keri Pickett

Keri Pickett

Our grandparent's built this house and left it to us after they died but we were too young to manage a house at that time.

Our grandparent’s built this house and left it to us after they died but we were too young to manage a house at that time.

Dear Ones,

Keri here: For sure the story starts here… in this house. Early family pictures show this house to be out in the country… now it is Old North Durham.

The boards, the windows, the landscape are like magnets for me… calling me back. Just seeing the house soothes my soul. After Granddaddy and Grandmother were gone the house became ‘ours’, But we were too young to keep it. Everything went into a trust to be divided later.

So here we are…standing like tourists in front of the house, divided from our roots because the family members are all gone. Nothing but ghosts. But, like a ghost, there is a lingering spirit asking – “What happened?” How did the house skip a generation? Henry Jr. should have been the one to inherit the house. Not us. It was out of the natural order. I also recall the handprints in cement on the back stairs. I used to lay my hand over the impression and see how close my hand is to my father’s hand. Such a good metaphor as his impression is all way have and have had since 1966.

Birdie and Henry worked so hard for every aspect of this place. I can feel them there. I can see Henry standing at the base of these stairs for a photo to mark all the important chapters in life. Now we drive by and wonder… what might have been?

Longingly, Keri

Memories of the Glendale House

Kim and Keri etched in cement by their Grandmother Birdie Pickett outside 1304 Glendale Avenue in Durham, NC.

Kim here. I remember growing up that Granddaddy would grow tomatoes in an empty lot down the street, and Grandmother had the most elaborate garden in the backyard. I would walk the paths and pretend it was a little city. I used to play with a little girl whose backyard was on the side fence.

Grandmother loved to etch names in wet cement. She put our names out on the front walk, Henry Jr.’s name on the steps in front of the porch. The one that made me laugh was Precious Kimberly and Darling Keri etched on the back stoop. I first went back to the house in the early 90s, and knocked on the door to introduce myself as the granddaughter of the couple who built the place, but they were already gone by then. So was the beautiful garden in back.


Two sisters start a search.

Dear All,

Kim here: It looked innocuous enough, but its contents would prove to be overwhelming. Who knew that it was there, just waiting to be found?  What are the chances of us getting this? Maybe it was fate that delivered this ordinary looking brown storage box into our hands, or maybe it was just digging.  Regardless, it set my sister and I on an amazing journey that touched us differently but rocked us to the core.

Keri here: Finding Henry is our platform for reaching out to share the riches left behind about a man who helped bring us onto the planet but then didn’t find his life worth living. The puzzle is a shattered picture faced by all whose family member commits suicide – why? Who was this man and what brought him to this place in life that only death would stop the pain? We take it back to the roots. We are the end of our family tree. I would like to leave a picture of the deep roots of the tree for others to see and share and perhaps it will help someone somewhere.

Sincerely, Kim Mahling Clark and Keri Pickett

The box was in storage for over 40 years.

The box was in storage for over 40 years.

Henry – we are looking for you.

Dear Dad,

We are on a search to find out. You are gone but not forgotten but we have a few questions.

Who were you and what the heck happened?

Searching for you through the mountain of letters. We are ready now. Thank you for leaving a trail, we are following your footsteps and then we are going public with the story.

With love, your daughters, Keri and Kim

Henry Ward Pickett Jr, 1965

Henry Ward Pickett Jr, 1965