WILKES-BARRE — The American flag outside the corporate headquarters of The Martz Group is flying at half-staff.
That symbol poignantly shows the profound sadness being felt inside the building where the late Frank Henry built a bus company that is recognized as an industry leader.
Henry, chairman emeritus of The Martz Group and a noted philanthropist, died Sunday at age 85. His funeral service will be held Thursday at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 474 Yalick Road, Dallas. Visitation will be held at the church Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
On Tuesday, several long-term Martz employees fought back tears as they talked abut “Mr. Henry” and his genuine concern for them and all of his employees — his extended family as he called them.
Doug Forbes, chief financial officer, Colleen Barnes, Mr. Henry’s secretary, Crystal Posten, administrative assistant to Scott Henry, Rose Hirel, dispatcher, Ed Steltz, human resources director, and Joann Oliver, who works in accounting, told their stories about their boss, making sure to note that there are many more similar stories of Henry’s compassionate leadership with his employees.
It was Steltz that suggested the flag be placed at half-staff — a symbol of respect, mourning, distress, or, in some cases, a salute.
Steltz said when he was hired 20 years ago, Henry came into his office on his first day with some clear instructions.
Sense of compassion
“Mr. Henry told me he wanted to create an environment where people like coming to work every day,” Steltz said. “He always had a compassionate approach. He treated every individual like they were members of his family. He cared about their needs and circumstances.”
Hirel said six months after she was hired in 1999, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was 42 at the time. Mr. Henry called her to his office.
“He told me that whatever I needed, he would do it for me,” Hirel said. “He told me not to worry about my job — that I could work when I could and to concentrate on my treatment.”
Hirel, who has been cancer-free for 19 years, said Henry put her mind at ease.
“I knew my job was safe and that Mr. Henry really cared about me,” she said. “That’s just the type of person he was.”
Hirel said her story is not unique. She said she knows of several other employees who were given the same considerations by Mr. Henry.
“He lifted a lot off of my mind,” she said. “And my work family here stood behind me and with me. I don’t know if I would have made it without my Martz family.”
Part of a family
Joann Oliver said that from the moment she was hired, she felt she was a part of a family.
“You weren’t just a warm body,” she said.
Oliver said she was diagnosed 20 years ago with Lyme disease and she was given three months to live. She said Mr. Henry offered to see what he could do.
“Mr. Henry and Scott (Henry) sat with me and we researched my condition,” Oliver said. “And, well, I’m still here today.”
Oliver said Henry arranged for her to see another doctor and it was determined that she did not have Lyme disease — she had scleroderma, a chronic connective tissue disease generally classified as one of the autoimmune rheumatic diseases. She said she still gets treatment and the condition is under control.
Oliver said Henry met her grandson, who was autistic and non-verbal, and arranged for him to be treated in a speech program at Misericordia University. She said Henry went with her to set everything up at Misericordia and would often visit her grandson to check on his progress.
“And he gave my grandson a toy bus,” Oliver said, referring to buses Henry kept in his office to give to children when they visited the Martz offices with customers.
Colleen Barnes has been with Martz for 12 years, the last six as Mr. Henry’s secretary. She said she often heard her boss talking on the phone to people who were seeking help.
“He would always ask them what he could do to help,” Barnes said. “And he really meant it. He cared about people and he never wanted any recognition. He sincerely cared about people.”
A generous man
Forbes said Martz is a family organization, fueled by Henry’s sincere compassion.
“There never was a more generous man,” he said. “There are so many causes he has helped.”
Crystal Posten lives at Lake Carey and her property was damaged when a tornado twisted through 20 years ago. She said trees in her yard were ripped out of the ground.
“Mr. Henry bought us three trees,” she said. “We call them the Henry trees.”
Posten said Henry touched many in the community and many more that we will probably never know about.
“Over the 30 years that I have worked for Mr. Henry and Scott, I have seen just how caring of a man that he was, always putting others first.”
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.