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Remembering Don Henthorn: Visionary Leader Transforms the Automotive Service Industry

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Michael Chen

March 29, 2024 - 18:48 pm

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Visionary Pioneer Don Henthorn Spearheads Automotive Equipment Industry

AGOURA HILLS, Calif., March 29, 2024 – The founder and esteemed leader of BendPak Inc., Don Henthorn, passed away peacefully at his home on Thursday, March 28. He was 85 years of age. Throughout his life, Henthorn transformed a modest machine shop into a global behemoth in the automotive service equipment sector, notably in the realm of car lifts. His strategic foresight and unyielding commitment were instrumental in cementing BendPak's position as a leader in the industry.

A Legacy of Innovation and Excellence

Don Henthorn revolutionized the automotive service world with his innovative approach and relentless drive, shaping BendPak into a top manufacturer that stands as a testament to his visionary work. His legacy is defined by the transformative growth of a simple machine shop into a preeminent name in the realm of car lifts and garage equipment.

Continuity in Leadership

Don Henthorn's prudent foresight ensured a seamless transition in the management of the privately held BendPak Inc. In 2022, he strategically handed over day-to-day operations to the current leadership team as part of a well-planned succession strategy. Assuming the role of chairman emeritus, Henthorn continued to impart his vast knowledge to the team, maintaining a remarkable presence in the office six days a week.

The Man Behind the Vision

Jeff Kritzer, BendPak's president and CEO, spoke highly of the founder: "Don's visionary leadership and unwavering dedication have been the cornerstone of BendPak's success. His passion, wisdom, and guidance have left an indelible mark on all of us and the organization. His legacy lives on through the values and principles he instilled in our company. He was not only a leader but also a mentor, inspiring all of us to strive for excellence and to never settle for anything less."

A Remarkable Journey from Soldier to Industry Titan

Henthorn's journey began at the age of 19, when he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served at a Nike Ajax missile site in Connecticut. His life took a romantic turn when he met Virginia Ann "Ginger" Eib. Within a week of his discharge in 1959, they were married and set out for California. This move marked the beginning of Henthorn's illustrious career in the burgeoning aerospace industry. His quest for knowledge and skill mastery led him to found Quality Machine & Associates (QMA) in Simi Valley, California, a company specializing in precision machine work for aerospace and defense giants.

Diversifying to Success

Unsatisfied with the inconsistent workload of a job shop, Henthorn invested countless hours into creating and patenting specialty tools that QMA could independently market. Significant inventions like the 5ivePak, a multipurpose tool, and a progressive hydraulic tubing bender laid the groundwork for the company's expansion into the automotive service industry.

The Birth and Evolution of BendPak

The entrepreneurial spirit led Henthorn to oversee the establishment of a new 20,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Moorpark, California, in 1977. Following a re-branding to BendPak in 1979, the company introduced its first four-post lift in 1983, which marked its formidable entry into the vehicle lift market. Over the decades, BendPak expanded its footprint worldwide, boasting manufacturing and distribution hubs globally and employing a team of over 275 professionals.

Setting New Standards

In 2023, the company unveiled its global headquarters in a state-of-the-art LEED Platinum® certified building in Agoura Hills, California. Meanwhile, the BendPak Industrial Complex, a substantial light industrial development, is in progress in Mobile County, Alabama, aligning with the company's extensive East Coast operations.

The Philosophy of Outworking Competition

Henthorn's belief in hard work as the key to success resonated throughout the organization. His personal mantra, "We outwork everybody," epitomized his approach to business and innovation. More than being the first to arrive at the office, Henthorn was committed to the safety and wellbeing of mechanics globally, aspiring to deliver only the best products.

Driven by Values and Community

In a profound reflection of his leadership philosophy, Henthorn expressed, "Only by going above and beyond for every product, for every customer, can we continue to grow. From the onset, when I was the sole force behind BendPak, to today's harmonized team, we value and appreciate every employee. Our workforce is why individuals continue to join us and are key to our enduring success."

More Than a Businessman: The Inventor and Family Man

Henthorn devoted time not only to the operational aspects of BendPak but also to invention. His hobbies, such as golfing, were complemented by cherished interactions with friends, family, and colleagues. He is survived by his wife, Ginger, his daughter, Susan, and his grandchildren Annika, Reagan, Carson, and Kennedy. His son, Gary, preceded him in death.

Remembering A Man of Great Influence

Those interested in reflecting upon Don Henthorn's impactful life can visit the BendPak blog. The blog will be continually updated, including forthcoming details on memorial services.

BendPak: A Reflection of Quality and Innovation

In closing, we take a moment to recognize the remarkable legacy of BendPak Inc. Established in 1965, this American-owned titan has been a symbol of quality and innovation. The suite of distinguished trademarked brands, including BendPak®, Ranger®, Autostacker®, QuickJack®, Cool Boss®, GrandPrix®, JackPak®, MaxJax®, and Ergochair™, illustrates the company's diverse portfolio of vehicle service equipment and consumer products. The extensive lineup ranges from car lifts and parking lifts to tire equipment and air cooler systems. BendPak's unwavering commitment to excellence continues to set industry standards and exceed customer expectations.

The Driving Force of Automotive Service Equipment

BendPak illustrates how impactful a business can be when it's driven by the principles of unwavering dedication and innovation. From its roots in a small machine shop to becoming a global authority in the world of automotive service equipment, the company's journey is a true testament to the vision and efforts of one man, Don Henthorn. He was not merely an entrepreneur; he was a vanguard, fostering a culture of continuous improvement and dedication to quality that will undoubtedly persist for generations to come.

It is with pride and respect that we salute Don Henthorn, a remarkable leader, innovator, and mentor. His indomitable spirit and dedication to exceeding standards have charted an unparalleled course for BendPak Inc. As we commemorate a life well-lived, we also celebrate the enduring influence of a man whose work transcended the ordinary, fostering a legacy of excellence that redefined an industry. Don Henthorn's memory and his lifelong commitment to innovation and quality live on, inspiring countless individuals within and beyond the automotive service equipment field.

The BendPak community, industry associates, and the countless lives touched by Don Henthorn's legacy will continue to uphold the values he championed. Through a commitment to exceeding every standard and outworking the competition, the principles of hard work, innovation, and dedication to quality remain the pillars upon which BendPak's future will be built.

In reflecting on the monumental life of Don Henthorn and the indelible legacy he leaves behind, it becomes clear that the measure of success is not simply found in financial gains or global recognition. It lies in the ability to inspire, to innovate, and to empower others to pursue excellence. Don Henthorn exemplified these qualities, and his life's work will continue to be a beacon for current and future generations at BendPak Inc.

This story is far from its conclusion, for the ethos Don Henthorn fostered is deeply ingrained in the company's culture and its people. While BendPak moves forward with its global presence and product innovation, the spirit of its founder remains a driving force within its walls. The company's commitment to the highest standards of customer satisfaction, environmental sustainability, and workplace integrity will long serve as a living memorial to a man who not only envisioned a future of limitless potential but also worked tirelessly to bring it to fruition.

As BendPak Inc. continues to navigate the future, Don Henthorn's ethos of excellence will persist as the cornerstone of the company's identity. Every car lift produced, every tool manufactured, and every innovation introduced will carry the fingerprint of Henthorn's commitment to quality, safety, and the pursuit of excellence. His departure is not the end of an era but rather a continuation of a philosophy that will thrive and evolve, securing BendPak's place in history as a company synonymous with leadership in automotive service equipment.

In the wake of Don Henthorn's passing, BendPak Inc. stands as a powerful symbol of what one individual's vision can achieve. The company's sustained growth and success serve as a testament to the transformative impact of his dedication. As BendPak forges ahead, the principles Henthorn instilled will continue to drive innovation, ensure safety, and exceed every standard set before it—a fitting tribute to a remarkable man whose legacy transcends the physical boundaries of his work.

Don Henthorn's story is one of unwavering commitment and transformative leadership. It is a narrative that encapsulates the very essence of the American Dream: the spirit of innovation, the rewards of hard work, and the pursuit of excellence. His journey from an ambitious young soldier to an industry icon reminds us that with passion and determination, anything is possible. BendPak Inc., under the guidance of its founder, has not only achieved success but has set a benchmark for others to follow.

The life and legacy of Don Henthorn will continue to influence and inspire. His vision for BendPak Inc. has become a reality that exceeds even the boldest of dreams. As we commemorate an industry giant, we also forge ahead with the knowledge and principles he bestowed upon us. With reverence and respect, we honor Don Henthorn, a true pioneer whose contributions to the automotive service world will not be forgotten.