May 18-24, 2006
By Luke Eggleston/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Faith Empowers Hal Henty Every Day of his Life
Each morning Hal Henty wakes up with God in his heart and on his mind.
He’s more than a regular at Christ the King Church in Liverpool, attending each morning Mass or communion service at 7 a.m. Some mornings he says he’s lazy. He goes at 9 a.m.
Communing with God is to Henty what morning coffee is to many people.
“It’s a part of my day. It’s a start to my day and thank you for my last day,” said Henty.
The 71-year-old Liverpool resident is a native of Syracuse’s south side. Although he was not born into a Catholic family, at the age of 18 he converted and was baptized and received his first communion at St. Anthony’s. He said that most of his friends attended the church and that he was simply impressed with the priests there at the time. His parents, who were Baptists, were open to the decision. During her latter years, Henty’s mother, Iva Henty, also converted.
Henty has made prayer part of the rhythm of his daily life. The image of a blue heron taking off, a baby’s smile, the sun; each notable occasion throughout his day is punctuated with brief prayer thanking God. A photographer in his spare time, Henty thanks God each time a picture turns out just right. Recently, he survived an episode with his heart brought on by complications from cardiac arrest suffered 11 years ago.
“He’s a man of faith and Mass really means a lot to him,” said Father James Fritzen, the pastor at Christ the King. “He applies [his faith] to his daily life. It isn’t just a head knowledge. It guides and directs him. When he was ill, he knew which anchor to hold on to.”
In his own words, Henty said he is “not preachy,” he doesn’t impose his faith on others, but it is a fundamental part of who he is.
“My faith is 100-percent important,” he said.
His son, Mike Henty, founded the Auburn based Champions for Life Sports Center 25 years ago. His father’s faith is a frequent inspiration for him.
“I always think of the quote from St. Francis when I think of my father. He said ‘Go forth and preach the Gospel and, if necessary, use words,’” Mike Henty said. “He’s a very quiet man but his example led me to my faith.” Mike Henty also attends Mass daily at a number of churches in Cayuga County. St. Alphonsus is his home parish. Hal Henty married the former Jackie Mahoney, a parishioner and student at Most Holy Rosary, in 1956. Henty had attended high school at Smith Technical School and then vocational school.
Henty has worked a variety of jobs throughout his life. Upon graduation, he opened up Bobo’s Parts and Service and then he worked at a shop owned by Frank Gabriel. After that, he opened up a service station in Eastwood next to a camera shop owned by Chuck Wainwright, Sr.
Wainwright often developed film in Henty’s garage and there he garnered what would become a lifelong enthusiasm for photography.
“I’ve always had a love for photography….I’ve always come back to photography,” he said. Most recently he has developed a passion for sports photography. On any given day, Henty can be seen on the Liverpool, Baldwinsville, Cicero-North Syracuse or West Genesee campuses photographing scholastic athletics. In 1965, Henty moved from the city to the northern suburbs, first to Baldwinsville and then to Liverpool. Each of his children attended Liverpool schools, many of them playing sports. While Bob, Andy and Jim Henty each played hockey, Mike Henty participated in soccer, gymnastics and tennis. A sister, Pamela, died during infancy but the family adopted a daughter, Kathy, some years later.
In the Liverpool area, Henty served on the school board and then began a career as the Town of Clay assessor, working for the town for 20 years before retiring last year. “He’s a very nice guy. We love him and miss him and he’s actually a great friend outside of work,” said Nancy Wilcox, who had been Henty’s secretary at the Town of Clay for 14 years.
His wife passed away in 2001 at the age of 66, on the same day as the couple’s wedding anniversary. She had developed a lung problem many years before, a reaction to medication she had received. Nevertheless, her passing took the family by surprise. Henty said that although he knew there was the potential for a problem, he still believed it to be many years away. The couple had even looked into a move to Florida.
“I still miss her quite a bit,” he said. “It’s hard.”
But Henty finds solace in his faith.
“Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers,” he said, recalling the words to a country western song the name of which he has since forgotten. “When my wife passed away my prayers weren’t answered. But maybe she’s better off up there in heaven.”