Goodbye Mr Henri

Last month, along with many others from this industry, I went to the Mr Henri Tribute organised by his sons Paul and Martin Strzelecki at the Polish Club.

Even though we were all there to remember the man, the stories served only to bring him back to the room where – in the Earls Court days – he would hold court after dinner.

He would walk round the table – seating 30 or 40 (maybe more?) people – and give us all a brief history of every diner.

Mr Henri was a very handsome man with boundless energy and a disarming smile that lit up the area, whether that was the Henri Lloyd boat show stand, one of the enormous dining halls at the Polish Club, or the entrance to Buckingham Palace.

With Angus Lloyd he set up Henri Lloyd in 1963. And to say he was a go-getter is putting it mildly. He would take every advantage to promote and sell Henri Lloyd garments.

And he very quickly became very successful at it.

He was a regular at top award ceremonies – including the Palace - where he received his MBE from Queen Elizabeth II in 1985.

There were many other awards. The Queen’s Award for Export, the MTA Marine Trade Personality of the Year award, the Polish Gold Cross of Merit, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the BMIF and the RYA, an honorary MA from the University of Salford, the Joseph Conrad Award for Innovation, a Doctor of Technology Honoris Causa from the Manchester Metropolitan University.

And I’m proud to say we presented him with the Boating Business Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010.

But what set Mr Henri apart from the rest of us was his ability to talk to anyone. From royalty down to a Big Issue salesman.

Each got the Mr Henri smile and his undivided attention. Until another opportunity to promote Henri Lloyd popped up.

But don’t take that as a criticism. That was Mr Henri. He was consummate professional.

And, perhaps most famously, he was a ladies man. He would serenade a pretty lady at the drop of a hat. He serenaded Mrs Nash on an escalator one day.

My last memory of Mr Henri comes from a friend of ours – Madeleine - who was in the same Sunrise home in Mobberly as Mr Henri.

Knowing Mr Henri was in that home, on a visit last year Mrs Nash asked Madeleine if she had met him. Our rather prim and proper friend straightened her back and, with head held high replied – yes; he’s a very handsome man.

Then, with and a slight smile, the 80 year old added: ‘With an eye for the ladies...’

One in a million, that Mr Henri.

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