Hendricks remembered for his generosity
A builder of companies.
A builder of communities.
Perhaps most significant, Hendricks was remembered as a strong family man who was a builder of people.
“He had a tremendous belief and faith in people, and he had a tremendous belief and faith in his family,” David Luck said at a memorial service for the 66-year-old Hendricks, who died a week ago after a fall at his Afton home.
“He truly understood the awesome power in everyone … if you just give them the opportunity.”
Luck is president of ABC Supply, the Beloit company that Hendricks, a high-school dropout, founded in 1982 with his wife, Diane. ABC is now the largest wholesale distributor of roofing and siding materials, tools and supplies in the United States.
“Ken preached: ‘Look at me; if I can do it, anyone can.’ He got people to believe in themselves and then he stood by them.”
Luck, who quipped that Hendricks is probably busy remodeling heaven, was one of several speakers at the service at the Eclipse Center, the former Beloit Mall property that Hendricks redeveloped.
The service capped a four-plus hour visitation during which a line of several thousand people snaked its way through the former mall for a public viewing. Family photos mixed with hundreds of floral arrangements of all shapes, sizes and colors. Photo slide shows accompanied by music played in loops on large screens throughout the center.
Luck said Hendricks was famous for bringing into the company people whom he felt needed a break. Around the office, they often were referred to as “Ken’s projects.”
“We would always say ‘Ken, we can’t be saving the world, we’ve got a business to run,’” Luck said. “Some of those people didn’t work out, but others did, and, if it did, Ken would let you know about it over and over again.
“If you can help a few people, in the big picture it may not matter that much, but Ken cared because it mattered to those people.”
Brent Fox, one of Hendricks’ three sons, said his father was a teacher who believed it was better to fail at something than not try it at all.
The billionaire Hendricks taught his seven kids that respect was earned, not bought or sold, he said.
“He was tough but caring,” Fox said. “But he was tough because he cared.
“He could be your biggest critic, but he was also your biggest fan.”
Gov. Jim Doyle said Hendricks was a true son of Wisconsin, a man who embodied the values so dear to so many in the state. Hendricks’ efforts to build communities have set the tone for economic development around the state, the governor said.
“He was all about creating jobs,” Doyle said. “I don’t know of anyone who had a better sense—deep in his gut—of what a job meant to someone.”
Doyle often was on the receiving end of a Hendricks phone call.
“It was always his ideas about something we should be doing to help people, never about ways we should be helping Ken Hendricks or his businesses,” Doyle said.
“There is not a citizen in this state more involved in economic development who put in his own resources than Ken Hendricks.”
Doyle posed a question Thursday that undoubtedly has crossed the minds of many since Hendricks’ death.
“What are we going to do now? Our great protector is gone,” Doyle said. “I’ll tell you what I’m going to do, and it’s what Ken would want me to do: I’m going to get up every day and work hard to make things better.”
Kevin Hendricks said that when employers left town, his father took it as a personal challenge to replace the lost jobs.
Ken Hendricks had a vision for his country, state, city, company and family, and Kevin challenged friends and colleagues who shared those visions to continue their efforts.
Ron Nief, a friend of Hendricks, echoed that sentiment.
“Helping people and building lives—this is why Ken was here,” Nief said.
“Let us continue his work.”