Richard Roberts Henszey
Richard Roberts Henszey, a third-generation Oconomowoc native, businessman, inventor, philanthropist and ever-passionate fan of all things Green Bay Packers, passed away surrounded by family at his home in Naples, Fla., on March 12, 2017.
The seeds of Dickís deep love of community began while roaming Woodland Lane with his gang of childhood friends. Winters brought ski jumping and speed skating. He spent summers sailing on Lac La Belle and around the region, where he honed competitive racing skills alongside careful planning. In those days, a capsized boat meant ruined canvas sails, not easily replaceable in post Depression years. Winning required creativity and an engineerís precision that defined his life.
After graduating from high school at Lake Forest Academy, Dick began mechanical engineering studies at Cornell University and completed his degree at Marquette University. He went on to do masterís work in chemical engineering at the University of Wisconsin at Madison before joining his father at The Henszey Company in 1947 as a design and research engineer. Roy Henszey, founder of the company, also was chief engineer of the Carnation Milk Company. Colleagues described Dick as "very intelligent, extremely focused, tenacious ... [and] inspired by the impossible."
Dickís adventurous spirit found a home in his love of flying. He bought his first airplane at the age of 23. The Henszey Company designed and manufactured products primarily for the food and dairy industry. In the years before Interstate highways, a private plane was often the only reliable way to reach customers in the rural dairy-producing regions of the Northeast and Midwest. Dick often remarked that the rich patchwork of greens in Wisconsin surpassed any other part of the country.
A blind date arranged by Dickís law-school buddies in Madison ended in a lifelong love affair with Mary Meagher, his wife of 61 years until her passing in 2014. They were married on Valentineís Day in 1953 and settled in Watertown, home of The Henszey Company. Children followed soon thereafter, as did a deep and abiding love of music and singing.
Mary was a trained soprano. Dick, a music enthusiast with perfect pitch, soon discovered his tenor vocal chords. The couple recorded songs at home on a magnetic tape deck, and sang in the LaBelle Choraliers and church choirs at St. Bernardís in Watertown and St. Joan of Arc in Okauchee. When Mary took up playing piano in her 30s, she and Dick often spent evenings playing and singing favorite songs of the day.
In 1959, the Henszey Company was sold and Dick founded Sentry Equipment Corp. in Oconomowoc to design and manufacture specialty products for the power industry. That start-up, with five employees and a bold vision, grew into an enterprise of innovative engineered products and services with global reach.
The success of Sentry Equipment allowed Dick to pursue a decades-long dream to empower the employees instrumental in building the company. In 1985, Dick initiated an Employee Stock Ownership Plan designed to transfer ownership of the company to its employees. Dick felt strongly that few employers appreciated the power of a workforce with a stake in the company. The ESOP, unlike a potentially vulnerable pension, requires active employee engagement and, if fruitful, provides an earned payout at retirement. A "Retired CEOs" wall at Sentry Equipment today commemorates a growing roster of those employee owners.
Retirement provided time for personal pursuits. Dick rekindled some sailor chops and took up windsurfing, which he enjoyed well into his 80s. Dick and Mary poured their energies into civic endeavors. They were founding members of the Oconomowoc Area Foundation, co-chaired the campaign to build the YMCA at Pabst Farms, and gave generously to St. Jerome Church, Marquette University, California Institute of the Arts and many other community organizations.
Richard Roberts Henszey is survived by daughters Barbara (husband, Mitch Markay), Helen (husband, Tom Terrill), Cathy and sons Daniel, David and Michael (wife, Julie) and four grandchildren, Lachlan and Griffin Markay and Ryan and Mary Cosgrave.
A visitation will be held on Tuesday, April 4, 2017 at 11:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. with a Mass at 1:00 p.m. all to take place at St. Jeromeís Catholic Church, 995 S. Silver Lake St., Oconomowoc, WI. A burial will follow at La Belle Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family encourages a donation to Avow Hospice, 1095 Whippoorwill Lane, Naples, FL 34105.
Pagenkopf Funeral Home, 1165 E. Summit Ave., Oconomowoc, WI 53066, is serving the family. For more information, call 262-567-4457 or visitwww.pagenkopf.com.