MARIETTA, Ga. – After years of struggling financially, Jack Hensley (search) accepted a construction job in Iraq to support his wife and 13-year-old daughter back home.
They learned Wednesday — on what would have been Hensley's 49th birthday — that the father and husband had been killed by his kidnappers.
Hensley took a construction job in February with Gulf Supplies and Commercial Services (search), based in the United Arab Emirates (search), "to get his family above water," Hensley's brother, Ty Hensley, said.
The past couple of years had been particularly hard financially on Hensley, his brother said. At one time, Hensley had three part-time jobs at a convenience store, including delivering mail at the post office in Austell, Ga., and working as a substitute teacher.
Seeing little opportunity stateside, Hensley took the year-long construction job in Iraq, even though he was very upset with being separated from his wife, Pati, and daughter, Sara.
"He is very close to his daughter," said 36-year-old Ty Hensley. "He saved his vacation days to come home in June to surprise her for her birthday."
Hensley had worked part time at his daughter's school, Pine Mountain Middle School, to spend more time with her, said Jack Haley, a family spokesman. Hensley worked during the 2002-2003 school year as a substitute teacher for the Cobb County School System.
Hensley was a 1973 graduate of Ponca City High School in Ponca City, Okla. His mother, Julia Hensley, worked for the Kay County Health Department in Oklahoma for many years and most recently has lived with Jack Hensley's family in Marietta.
Hensley graduated from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte with a mathematics degree in 1977.
Hensley and Pati met in Colombia, South America, where they both worked in the computer business when he was in his late 20s. He also worked in Saudi Arabia for about a year and a half, his brother said.
The couple married and moved in 1984 to the Atlanta area, where both worked for the Getronics, said Thomas Burke, the computer company's spokesman. Hensley worked on big projects there until October 2001, Burke said from Getronics' U.S. headquarters in Billerica, Mass.
Getronics co-worker Bill Melvin said Hensley combined technical savvy with people skills when managing large-scale telecommunications projects. Melvin, who worked with Hensley for 17 years, said there was another dimension to the technology expert.
"Overall, Jack was one of the kindest souls I've ever known. He loved his daughter. He loved his wife," Melvin said. "I'm heartbroken for Pati and Sara. I cannot possibly imagine the horror they are facing."
Jack and Pati Hensley moved from Cobb County's Vinings community to their current home in suburban Marietta 10 years ago and refocused their lives when their only child, Sara, was 3, Hensley's brother said.
"In the '90s, the computer business was racing so fast that both he and Pati decided they just didn't want to keep current and go with the jobs," he said. "They wanted to focus on their daughter."
"It's a great loss for our community," said Marty Cochran, who said he worked for Hensley at two failed sports bars that Hensley owned, Networks in the late 1990s and Our Place that was open from 2000 to 2002.
"He'd give you the shirt off his back," Cochran said.