Henry Schwaller II
Published on -7/21/2013, 7:16 PM
Henry Schwaller II died at Hays Medical Center on Saturday, July 13. He was 94.
Henry was born October 22, 1918, in Hays to Mae (Farley) and Henry Schwaller. He was the youngest of three children, following twin sisters Doris and Virginia.
After graduating from Hays High School in 1936, Henry attended the University of Kansas. He was a Dean's Honor Roll Student, member of the Alpha Xi chapter of Sigma Chi, yell-leader with the cheerleading squad, and President of the Senior Class of 1940. He graduated KU in 1940 with a B.S. in Business (Banking and Finance).
While at KU, Henry met Juliette Trembly of Kansas City, Missouri, and they married on May 16, 1941. The couple honeymooned in Mexico, the first of many trips to a place they both loved. Their first son, Henry (Hank), was born in 1942 and John (Fritz) in 1948.
Henry served in the Army Air Corps in World War II and was an AAF Cadet at Yale University, then commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant. He served stateside during the war and was stationed in California and Oklahoma. He separated in 1946 at the rank of First Lieutenant.
Henry returned to Hays after the war and ran Schwaller Lumber Company, a family business established in 1892 by his father and grandfather, Clemens Schwaller. Under Henry's leadership, the firm expanded from a lumberyard and coal dealer to a full-service building center and began manufacturing and distributing products that were sold to other lumberyards in Kansas. With his aunt, Ada Schwaller, Henry started Northwest Distributors in 1948, the first liquor distributorship after Prohibition and began the first of many residential developments.
After reading about the state's intention to designate Vine Street as a state highway in 1959, Henry acquired a 200-acre tract of land from the Winters family, which included property east of Vine from 22nd to 27th Streets. He named this development Centennial Estates, and envisioned it as the city's first suburban development, with a large retail shopping center, affordable single-family homes and multi-family apartments. Henry continued acquiring and developing land on Vine Street and along the future Vine Street and west Hays interchanges of Interstate 70.
Henry also had a long career in public service, beginning with his term as a Hays City Commissioner (1957-60) and Mayor of the City of Hays (1957). In 1968, Norbert Dreiling approached Henry about serving as a State Highway Commissioner as an appointee of Governor Robert Docking. As a Commissioner, Henry was responsible for widening Vine Street to five lanes, as well as overseeing completion of Interstate 70 to the Colorado border.
Governor Docking appointed Henry as the Secretary of the State Department of Administration. In this cabinet level position, Henry was in charge of the state's budget, purchasing and all state property. His department had jurisdiction over all functions of government not delegated to other agencies, including finance, information and communications systems, and construction and maintenance of state property.
In 1976, Henry and Juliette decided to spend their winters in Mexico. They purchased a home in Cuernavaca, the "city of eternal spring", and became involved two service organizations, Society for the Protection of Animals, a humane society operating in Cuernavaca, and the Foundation for Mexican Children, a non-profit organization that provided funding for a Salvation Army orphanage and scholarships at Fort Hays State University.
Henry was actively involved with many local and state organizations, including American Legion Post No. 173, Hays Rotary Club, Hays Board of Realtors, the University of Kansas Development Committee, and the Kansas Association of Commerce and Industry. He served as the Chairman of the Fund Drive for the construction of St. Anthony Hospital, and received the Hall of Fame Award (2000) from the Hays Chamber of Commerce for his work on behalf of the community. Henry was a lifelong member of the Hays Presbyterian Church.
He was preceded in death by his son, Henry III, and wife, Juliette. He is survived his son, John and his wife Anne of Potsdam, New York; and four grandchildren, Henry IV, Jennifer, Robert and William.
Henry will be remembered not only for his accomplishments but his compassion for others, appreciation of history, travel and art, and wonderful sense of humor. The family suggests donations to The Schwaller Award at Fort Hays State University Foundation or the Hays Arts Council. A memorial service will be held in September for family and friends.