The man who developed the world’s first waterpark and resort from the banks of the Comal River in New Braunfels, Texas, building it into one of the most respected and admired waterpark brands in America, passed away on October 31, 2016 at the age of 89.
Bob Henry will be remembered as a devoted family man of great wisdom and remarkable business ability. His goal was to create a family business that would grow as his family grew, a goal he realized through the creation of Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts.
Fifty years ago, Mr. Bob, as he came to be known by all who loved him, left a career as a CPA, and along with his wife, Billye, to take over a small camp ground on the banks of the Comal River in New Braunfels, Texas. Together with their three children, they continually improved, reinvested and expanded the camp ground, transforming it into a destination resort and eventually into a waterpark resort.
Born in Duncan, Oklahoma in 1927 to Ray and Irene Henry, he met his wife, Billye, in 1948. Bob knew immediately she was “The One” and they married within a year. Mr. Bob went on to earn his MBA from Oklahoma A&M. Together they moved to Houston where he started his career with Arthur Andersen. They had three children; Gary, Jeff, and Jana. Offered a job to run an office in Panama in 1958, Bob loaded up his young family and moved across the world. He returned to the States in 1963, and continued to work in the accounting profession. Mr. Bob was determined to find a way to have their own business. Billye discovered the ad for the sale of a small camp ground in a town neither of them had heard of. That small business would become the headquarters and flagship for the Schlitterbahn family of waterparks and resorts.
Mr. Bob was a very hands-on entrepreneur. A thrifty, self-taught carpenter and builder who once built his own sea-worthy boat in a carport at their Panama house, he often found ways to re-use everything from rustic cabins to plants left over from local home and garden shows to beautify the parks. Mr. Bob recognized that families had many choices for family fun and understood the value of adding amenities to the resort. One of the first was a set of slides that splashed down into the Comal River – in fact, Mr. Bob built the first tube slide in the world.
That idea of using the river was the first step in developing what would eventually become Schlitterbahn Waterpark and Resort. Under his careful tutelage, Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts grew to include five waterparks, three resorts, two full service restaurants, two indoor waterparks, and a country club. In fact, even in retirement, Mr. Bob remained involved at Schlitterbahn, turning a golden shovel on the family’s most recent park in Corpus Christi.
Mr. Bob was very engaged in the New Braunfels community, particularly the largest (and, by local estimation, the best) Oktoberfest celebration in the nation: Wurstfest. He was an “Opa” with the Wurstfest Association and served as its President in 1977. In 1995, Bob created the Robert Henry Presidential Endowment Fund awarding over 200 Texas State scholarships to Schlitterbahn staff. In 2003, Bob was inducted into the New Braunfels Chamber Hall of Honor, in recognition of his lifetime of work on behalf of the New Braunfels business community. The World Waterpark Association inducted Bob into its Hall of Fame in 2013, in recognition of his contributions to the industry
Mr. Bob, from the very start, dreamed of having a family business where he and his entire family could work together. Today he leaves behind a legacy of hard work, dedication, and commitment to creating a place where families – even beyond his own – could work and play together and make great memories. Today three generations of the Henry family work in the parks.
Mr. Bob is survived by his wife of 67 years, Billye, plus their three children; Gary Henry, Jeff Henry, and Jana Faber, all of New Braunfels; 7 grandchildren, and 16 great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his sister Nita Hodges of Morgan City, LA.