Local businessman and philanthropist Ken Hendricks died this morning at the age of 66. Ken dropped out of high school to join his father’s roofing company, and he later built one of the largest roofing companies in the midwest. He sold that and started ABC Supply, which became the nation’s largest roofing supply company. This made him the wealthiest man in the area, by far.
Ironically, Ken died from a fall last night while inspecting new construction going on over his garage. The man had to have been on countless construction sites over the years, and he certainly knew how to handle himself around one. It seems a simple slip caused his end.
Those who visit this site regularly might recall that my wife Ann lost a childhood friend on New Year’s Day last year. Melissa Bessen slipped on the stairs in her apartment and died from the fall. The way her and Ken’s deaths mirror each other—both random acts taking their victims from us far too early—serves as a stark reminder of how short life can be and how lucky we each are to be able to cling to it and each other as long as we can.
In one sense, Ken was like Mr. Potter from It’s a Wonderful Life. He had a ton of money, and it sometimes seemed like he owned half the town. But he had George Bailey’s kind and generous heart, and he was well-loved for it.
Ken, along with his wife Diane, was a committed and involved citizen of Beloit and did a tremendous amount of good for countless people. He also pushed environmental responsibility, with green roofing research and projects, and he sponsored the nascent Beloit Film Festival among many other artistic endeavors. Although I’m sure Diane will soldier on without him—she’s a strong and kind woman who has my deepest sympathies for this tragic loss—Ken will be impossible to replace. Beloit never knew another man like him and probably never will again.