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Hughes-Primeau Controls celebrates the life and work of Henry G. Hughes
Hughes-Primeau Controls combines 155+ years of selling engineered valve and heat tracing solutions
"Committed to providing a positive Customer experience every time"
A Drug Free Workplace
Copyright 2011 Hughes-Primeau Controls, Inc. All rights reserved
Henry G. Hughes
November 28, 1933 ~ January 15, 2006
That's what Henry would always say right before tackling another project, another roll of drawings, another stack of specs, another startup problem in the field. No project or problem was too insurmountable, and he thoughtfully propelled himself right into the task at hand. Which is exactly what he's asking all of us to do from this day on.
What I wouldn't give right now for Henry to come walking through that door right there and just say, “GOOD morning everyone”. Now you need to know his schtick. No matter what time of morning or afternoon, his first entrance into the office that day was announced as “GOOD morning everyone”. And you know, when he came into that office he just lit it up. That sense of humor of his…
What do we remember most about Henry?
That sense of humor of his. Will we remember anything more than that wry sense of humor? Henry was infected with good humor. He infected all of us with that beaming grin and twinkling eyes of his. He laughed and he laughed and he laughed until everyone around him was bursting with laughter. Henry saw so much irony in life, so much zaniness going on around him in our office, that he was likely to burst into spontaneous laughter that brought chuckles and rowdy guffaws all around him. It was just last week, I stopped at his office for one of my many counseling sessions asking for his opinion. Before I could get my question out, he interrupted & began telling me about an installation going on at a jobsite, and how Murphy's Law just took over on this project. His voice kept getting louder and higher pitched, pushed along by his rolling laughter, he could barely get the words out, & that by the time he was able to calm himself down he was wiping tears from his eyes. I thought his teeth were going to come right out! I'll never forget his bellowing, infectious laugh!
I remember his generosity. Henry was RICH in generosity, and he gave and he gave and he gave, and yet he kept giving some more! That crusty old dog was a bottomless well of creampuff goo when he felt someone needed help. Either at the office, at home, or a customer. It didn't matter. He wasn't jealous. He didn't have an agenda. He didn't have a single need to pronounce how great and wonderful he was. He gave of himself without expecting reward or advancement for himself. What was in it for Henry was the notion that somehow he could quietly and without publicity, help someone else. He had a heart as big as a basketball.
His Strength & His Courage.
He had the courage to start two different sales rep organizations. He built them up under incredible adversity. He didn't waver, he didn't flinch. He knew what he was, what he could do, and what he had to do to make them successful.
And even though he got dealt a couple of bad hands, he never complained or whined. He fought back, he worked hard, and he built his companies with his own hands, heart, & mind.
His Honesty and Integrity.
Lon Zeager, his long time and very good friend, said his lasting impression of Henry will be his honesty and integrity. His straight up truth in everything he did, and said he would do, is what defined him in his day-to-day dealings with people. Henry just didn't know how to lie. He never lied `just to get the order' or advance himself. He did not misrepresent his product `just to get the order'. Lon also remembers Henry's amazing competence at whatever he did. He was smart, not only was he smart at how he applied his products, but how he dealt with people. When someone conducts themselves like this, their reputation spreads. When you leave one company and go to another, or when you leave this earth, all you can really take with you is your reputation.
John Callison, once our Regional Manager from the KM Level Co., and a key and pivotal and a very funny man during Henry's and my early days together at Hughes-Primeau, said of Henry, “He was in a class all by himself. What a character.”
A new customer and one whom we worked with on a recent project, said of Henry, “I'm very sorry to hear that Henry passed away. You're right, my exposure was limited, however I definitely liked his style. He reminded me of the “old school” mindset where a man could make a deal with a handshake and you weren't afraid to say what was on your mind without fear of being “Politically Correct”.
My last sales call last week to a major customer with Henry, was one that I will always remember. He got all dressed up, his shirt was completely buttoned, hair combed, fly zipped up, he even had his, not Chris', reading glasses on. He was lively and animated while driving to their offices to close the order. His conversation in the car was quite salty, & I could tell he was excited to be “in the hunt”. He never lost that thrill to be “in the hunt”. When we got to the lobby, I quietly reminded him to watch his language, this was a brand new customer and all. He didn't hear me, & I had to repeat it louder. Then he said in his booming voice, “What? I have to watch my language? What is he, a Born Again Christian??”
Henry was a natural teacher. He was the same as when I worked for him right out of college 27 years ago and would stand over his shoulder at his desk as he explained something new to me, as he was last week, when one of our guys would be standing over Henry's shoulder getting his instruction for some quote or order or new product. People lined up to get their lesson from Henry, almost everyday. When I would go back to his office and see these young guys or gals back there it was déjà vu all over again. I would smile and walk away, to await my lesson from Henry later. He never tired of that role. He was the ultimate, infinitely patient teacher.
Henry was also known across Northern Ohio and across the country, as `Professor Level' because of his expertise at specifying and calibrating level equipment. This was because he was always probing for knowledge and understanding in all of the products that challenged him. As we all know now, he would quickly know more about a manufacturer's product than the manufacturer himself!
He was the `Granddaddy of heat tracing'! He began selling some of the very first feet of heat tracing in all of Northern Ohio back in 1969! He rode a very profitable wave, and then taught all of us how to make a living off of selling it. He shared with us this nasty addiction to selling heat tracing, valves, and dampers. It wasn't glamorous, but then again neither was he. He had all the glamour of iron, (“Irrrn” Henry would say), but then again he was as solid as iron.
Henry didn't change much, nor did he try to, (and God knows some of us tried!) as evidenced by the fact that he could still obliterate any office, room, working surface, kitchen counter, bathroom, or automobile that he laid eyes on. As all gas laws of the universe go, he expanded to fill the room he was contained in, but, hey, let's not talk about gas any more.
Just this past Thanksgiving, we expanded and just about doubled the space at the office. So I thought it would make Henry happy to give him his very own plan room. A place where he could spread out his drawings and specs, a 4' x 18' long drawing table in his own room. He just thought that was `Downtown'. (To Henry, anything fancy was `Downtown'.) He was giddy. Paul's father-in-law, Rich, built him a `Spec' room, all the furnishings were to Henry's satisfaction.
Paul recognized Henry as being firmly in charge of his new surroundings, as Henry declared himself`Plan Room Supervisor', which brought Henry to tears with howls of laughter. He was very proud of that title. In fact, I would bet a dollar to a doughnut that right now Henry is angling his way to be God's Plan Room Supervisor right as we speak! `Okay, let's get to it' he's already telling God, “we've got a lot of work to do.”
What else do we remember? Admiration and respect from his peers. To some customers, Henry walked on water, (usually he walked through the water,) he was 10 feet tall, he was Albert Einstein and David Copperfield. They would call, and he would come. He would solve their problems, and be unyielding on doing the `right thing'. He always kept at a problem until he conquered it. And he just loved solving problems, God knows he kept fielding them one after the other, and it never discouraged him, nor did he ever flinch. He was the rock we've all come to count on in so many ways.
A generous, loving, and gracious father. In our early days together still back in the mid-to-late `90's, he was always telling me about high school basketball or football games, or academic challenges he attended watching his boys. He beamed. You can't imagine the pride he had that he shared with me about you boys.
A loving husband. He was generous with his time shared in raising the boys with Mary, and loving and giving and supportive in their lives together. Thank you, Henry, for bringing Chris into our lives. I know, Chris, you made him a happy man. And I know that Marybeth, Michelle, and Kathryn love you very much. Thank you for taking such good care of Henry. I know how hard you tried. I'm not sure, however, that he ever really ate all those granola bars that you insisted he eat while snacking at the office. (By the way, he really liked chocolate!)
He was a great mentor to me. I remember back to 1996 when I was preparing to leave my former job and come over to Hughes & Associates, and take over. It was risky, it was a huge decision in my life, and I was a bit tenuous about jumping off. One time on a phone call, Henry asked me, “So, when are you coming over?” I said, “I'm almost ready, Henry, I'm almost there.” With three kids, a mortgage, and big college payments looming, I was a bit tightly wrapped. He merely replied, “Well, I'll still be here.”
Henry was The Man of Irrrnn, who unselfishly made it all possible for Paul & I to make a new life for ourselves, and for everyone and their families who are with us today. To paraphrase someone else along time ago, “Upon this block of Irrrn I will build this business!” Paul & I owe him our eternal debt and gratitude for having confidence in us taking over his business and continuing the good name that he established. And that `Hughes' name will continue to be with us as long as I'm around here!
A dear friend. I've known and worked with Henry for 27 years now. We took a few years off from each other in the middle of my career, but like good friends often do, you can part ways for a while, and then come back together again like there wasn't any absence at all. And we've made good things happen together.
Take care old friend, I'm sure I'll see you again someday…
“Okal-dokal, John, I'll still be here”…
Hughes-Primeau Controls, Inc.
Office: 440-945-6330 or 800-468-5404
7670 First Place, Suite H, Oakwood Village, OH 44146
Copyright 2011 Hughes-Primeau Controls, Inc. All rights reserved.