Janesville57.4°

Hendricks remembered as generous, down to earth

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Stacy Vogel
December 22, 2007
— To the world, Ken Hendricks was the Beloit billionaire, the business genius who built an empire from scratch.

But to the folks at Skip’s Friendly Village bar in Rock Township, he was simply Ken—neighbor, friend, the guy on the next bar stool.


Or the “billion-dollar bird-dog,” as John Hicks occasionally called him.


Hendricks earned the nickname when he and some friends were planning to go hunting but didn’t have a dog. Someone said Hendricks could play the role, and he good-naturedly imitated a hunting dog, Hicks said.


Patrons at Skip’s remembered Hendricks as generous and down-to-earth as they filtered in Friday night for the weekly fish fry.


He was the type of guy who let you hunt geese on his property.


Or loan you his Harley.


Or invite everyone in the bar back to his place for karaoke.


“He didn’t act like he had money,” said Becky Shurman, Janesville. “He dressed like me and you.”


Hendricks and his wife, Diane, used to visit the bar two or three times a week when they were in town, said bartender Vickie Byrne. He loved the homemade soup and the bluegill. Sometimes he brought his grandchildren in for pizza on Saturday afternoons or picked up a pie to take back to “The Pits,” his Rock Township home known for its fishing ponds.


A couple of bar patrons remembered how Hendricks surprised an employee who had cancer by remodeling her home. Even though the woman’s insurance had run out, Hendricks quietly continued to pay her medical bills, they said.


But he never acted like he was above anyone else, said Kevin Leitz, a 14-year employee of Hendricks’ business, ABC Supply Co. He usually wore jeans to work just like everyone else, Leitz said.


“Most people who didn’t really know him, they wouldn’t guess he was the owner of the place,” he said.


“The first time I saw him, he had on a Hawaiian shirt, jeans and sunglasses,” added Troy Rusch, a fellow employee.


The mood at the company was somber and shell-shocked Friday, they said. They still couldn’t believe their boss was dead and spoke about him in the present tense.


Kathy Hoffman couldn’t believe it either. She and her husband, Skip, co-own the bar and had become good friends with Hendricks and his wife, she said.


“He was just a very loved guy, and he’s going to be missed a lot,” Hoffman said.


She choked up as she remembered how much Hendricks liked to sing karaoke. His favorite song was “I Love This Bar,” by Toby Keith, she said.


“He was bugging us to get it on the jukebox, and we just got it a month ago,” she said. “I don’t even know if he knew that.”


Ken Hendricks’ Resume


Boards of directors: Rock Valley Community Programs, 1996-2007; Beloit 2020, 1988-2007; Independent Disability Services, 2000-2007; Sinnissippi Council of Boy Scouts of America, 2000-2007; Blackhawk State Bank, 1996-2007; Forward Janesville, 2003-2007; Stateline Council 100, 2003-2007;


Board of trustees: Beloit College, 1996-2007.


Former president of board of directors of Greater Beloit Chamber of Commerce, 1990.


Past president of Beloit Inn Owners Association, 2001-2004.


Active participant with United Way.


OTHER PURSUITS


Ken Hendricks’ multifaceted business interests didn’t keep him and his wife, Diane, from taking an active interest and contributing to a wide range of activities, often improving the community along the way::


--Education—Hendricks was leading an effort to establish a regional technical high school that would have drawn from all Rock County school districts. He flew education and community leaders this fall to a model school in Pennsylvania. He also gave the TAGOS Leadership Academy, a new charter school in Janesville, a home at the Arrow Park building in Janesville.


--The arts—Ken and Diane were big contributors, helping efforts such as the Janesville Performing Arts Center and the Beloit International Film Festival.


--Sports—ABC Supply began sponsorship of the A.J. Foyt Racing Team in Indy car competition in 2005. This past race season was a celebration of ABC Supply’s 25th anniversary and Foyt’s 50th anniversary of Indy car racing. ABC Supply also sponsored the IndyCar Series race at the Milwaukee Mile in West Allis the past three years.



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