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Miss America 2000
Founded the Heather French Foundation for Veterans, Inc.
As Miss America traveled widely on behalf of veterans' needs
Appointed to the Secretary of Veterans' Affairs National Homeless Advisory Council
TV Co-host, "Fox in the Morning," a news TV talk show
Masters of Design & Illustration, Univ. of Cincinnati
Married to Steve L. Henry, M.D.; two daughters
"Only God could orchestrate me being Miss America," Heather says of her year 2000 win of the crown, the first Kentuckian to do so. Having been a tomboy, she did not seriously compete until age 20. Funny thing, though, Heather says she knew since age 4 that she was going to be Miss America and told her mom so at a Gospel Sing the family attended. She has always dreamed of speaking to many people.
It was an auspicious year for several reasons, one being that she could speak to the needs of homeless veterans, which became her platform. A lot of focus went to veterans that year - the movie "Saving Private Ryan" came out and a Department of Defense museum was dedicated. Her lobbying efforts and speaking before Congress influenced the Homeless Veterans Assistance Act of 2001 and raised significant funds for special veterans' initiatives.
With the Iraq war Heather is busier than ever. The daughter of a disabled Vietnam Vet, Heather has a heart to help care for the ones who have given so much to this country. Her father was shot in Vietnam and for many years suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He could not handle any type of stress, which took quite a toll on her mother and family. Heather remembers going to VA hospitals with him. To help build patriotism Heather launched a series of children's books about Claire, a rambunctious 8-year-old girl who learns about patriotism and volunteerism in everyday life.
"The year 2003 was the year of jubilee for many people, but not for us," Heather says. "It was just one test after the other." One could say it was a character-building year, and Heather credits the prayers of many people for helping them through it. Heather was raised in a Rhema church.
The Henrys have two daughters, Harper Renee, and on July 4 last year Heather gave birth to their second daughter, Taylor Augusta. Two weeks after that blessed event, Steve, an orthopedic surgeon and former Lt. Gov. of Kentucky, was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Surgery soon followed.
Barely two weeks after this episode, Heather noticed that little Taylor was getting sick. There were few symptoms, but Taylor was doing projectile vomiting. The doctors were stumped at first, but after two days, Heather sensed something was seriously wrong. Barium tests showed an intestinal blockage. "It was so scary," Heather says, "I thought I would faint." At 6-weeks old little Taylor underwent surgery for pyloric stenosis, a condition where the tube leading into the stomach gets blocked and food has nowhere to go. Thankfully, she came through it well and is doing very well today.
One of Heather's greatest tests came on Oct 12, 2003. That was the day when she accidentally hit a bicyclist while driving. The bicyclist later died. Heather was turning at a Louisville intersection when she struck Karola Steed, 44, a native of Germany who was crossing outside the crosswalk. A mother of four, Karola died at a local hospital following the accident. No criminal charges were brought against Heather. Heather says she will never forget the incident, including the look on the woman's face.
The accident remains a hard thing for Heather to talk about. Hindsight is always 20-20, and Heather says that looking back she should have heeded certain feelings she got that day. She believes she could have avoided the accident if she had trusted "her spirit and her gut" and gone into a store just for a few minutes. Heather had spoken at a charity event, and there was no reason for her and Taylor to rush home - they were only three miles away. She also says there was a sickening feeling in her stomach, as if there was something she hadn't done. She felt this prompting twice, but she took a shortcut that was a different way out of the mall, and that changed everything.
Heather says one of the biggest lessons that she has learned from this experience is to be tuned in to Christ. The world is so busy now that we must take time to stop and listen to what the Spirit is saying.
In responding to the flood of media requests, Heather chose to tell her story on Oprah, where she had more time to share in detail what happened. People don't realize how such an incident impacts not only the victim's family, but also the life of the other person involved, causing anguish to both parties involved. Her story has changed the lives of others who have been involved in tragic situations.
Heather has stopped doing many things publicly, but her veterans have told her they did not want her to stop her work on their behalf. It was too important. No one else was doing it.
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