My friend Henry died today. He had a massive heart attack last Wednesday and never came out of a coma. I saw him last on Friday, December 7 in the offices of MAC Group in Elmsford, NY. He smiled with his whole face when he saw me, kissed me on the lips, gave me a warm loving hug and proceeded to sit down and chat with me and another business associate, Jeff Karp. We parked in Jeff's office and he stopped his work, I sat down across his desk beside Henry and we began to discuss business in a very casual and easy way.
Henry has been a major force in the photography industry in the United States for decades. He and Paul Klingenstein founded Mamiya America Corporation and a bright young man named Jan Lederman teamed up with them and has spent his lifetime as close friends with both men. PK (as we called Mr. Klingenstein) died in 2003. Henry A. Froelich died today. I fantasize that he and PK are having a grand reunion laughing and chatting as they used to. My heart goes out to Jan who is lonely in a way that only friends like that can know.
During that meeting in Jeff's office on that Friday in December, Henry told us a funny story, as he often did. It was industry trivia. I can't remember all the details. I remember just looking at him that day, thinking he was adorable and thinking how lucky I was that he was fond of me and that I had some time to visit with him that day. I had no idea it would be the last time I saw him. He told us about a product that he was importing from some far away country decades ago. The product was designed to boost the output of a photographic flash. I think it was a battery pack or some such thing. He smiled broadly and his eyes twinkled as he told the story. The foreign company translated the brochure, printed them in English and shipped them over for the sales force to begin selling. Henry arrived home, I think he said, to the box of brochures and eagerly opened it. (He was always excited about a cool new business opportunity.) He pulled out the brochure with the slogan that the foreign company was using in their country. The English translation proclaimed, "Up YOURS!" as in up your output..... We all laughed. I said I needed to get back into the meeting I'd been in previously. I hugged him again, kissed him on the cheek, bid farewell to Jeff and off I went.
The next evening we all attended the 20th anniversary party of Mamiya America Corporation, now called MAC Group. I greeted him and his lovely Marian at the cocktail party. I remember seeing him about at the dinner later. He looked pale that night and frail. I remember having just a hint of thinking I should sit with him and chat a bit more. But the room was loud, his family and friends were around him. I was busy kibitzing with other reps and dancing with Cliff. I didn't even say goodnight to him when I left.
There are few things in my life I regret. Not spending more time with Henry that night and not saying goodnight to him are two of my regrets. So this is my way of chatting with him by telling you about him.
He wrote me a note a few years ago, the year my father died. It was in my bonus check that year. And I still have it. It was a hand written note saying I'd done a good job and he was proud of me. I needed the money that year, but his note was far more precious to me.
So goodnight Henry. I'm leaving the party now and going on with the evening, going on with work tomorrow, returning calls, sending in orders, solving our customers problems. Thank you for teaching me the importance of respecting our customers. Thank you for teaching me that people are more important than dollars. Thank you for teaching me about loyalty and family... even in business.
I'll miss you. But I'll remember your lessons. And as long as I'm in the industry I'll tell the younger ones about you and I'll keep your memory alive with those of us who were privileged to know you.... and love you.
Rest well dear friend. We'll do our best without you. But it will never be the same.