Billye Henry, the woman who, along with her husband Bob Henry, developed the world’s first waterpark and resort from the banks of the Comal River in New Braunfels, Texas, passed away on August 17th at the age of 87.
(photos available, scroll to bottom of history gallery)
Billye Henry will be remembered as a devoted mother, grandmother, and great grandmother, as well as a committed business woman. Both she and Bob dreamed of having a business that would keep their family close, a dream that was realized with the creation of Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts.
Fifty years ago, as they were beginning to explore the idea of operating their own business, Billye spotted an ad in the Houston Chronicle about a small campground on the banks of the Comal River in New Braunfels, Texas. After some due diligence, they determined that it was what they were looking for. They left Houston, arriving in New Braunfels on Labor Day 1966, and together with their three children, they began operations of Camp Landa.
Over the years Billye did everything from cooking breakfast for guests to taking reservations and sewing drapes for resort rooms. She and Bob continually improved, reinvested and expanded the small resort, transforming it into a destination resort along the river. This set the foundation for what would eventually become award-winning waterparks and resorts.
She was born Billye Drake in Duncan, Oklahoma on September 6, 1929 to Floyd and Ruth Drakes. She met Bob Henry in 1948 and within a year they were married. Together they moved to Houston where he started his career with Arthur Andersen. They had three children; Gary, Jeff, and Jana. When Bob was offered a job to run an office in Panama in 1958, Billye loaded up their young family and moved across the world. She always enjoyed traveling.
Miss Billye, as she was known to all her staff, was very focused on families. She valued hard work, and never shied away from a project. Whether it was getting up in the early morning to bake fresh biscuits for guests or rewiring lamps for rooms, Miss Billye didn’t hesitate to take care of business. As a family run business, the Henry’s evening dinner was often interrupted by calls from guests ready to book rooms. Billye answered those calls back then, calls that are now handled for three separate resorts with more than 500 rooms by more than a dozen operators in an in-house call center in New Braunfels.
Throughout the tremendous growth and expansion, Miss Billye never lost focus of making sure Schlitterbahn remained the kind of place families could visit. She insisted on maintaining family friendly policies like free parking and the ability to bring in a cooler full of food and drink into the park. These policies have set Schlitterbahn apart from other theme and waterparks.
Billye is survived by her three children; Gary Henry, Jeff Henry, and Jana Faber, all of New Braunfels; 7 grandchildren, and 17 great-grandchildren.
Both Billye and Bob Henry (who passed away last year), from the very start, dreamed of having a family business where they and their entire family could work together. Together they inspired generation after generation of waterpark fans to spend more time together, to make memories, and to embrace family. At Schlitterbahn we continue to honor that legacy of hard work, dedication, and commitment to creating a place where families can work and play together and make great memories.
In memory contributions can be received to the Robert Henry Presidential Endowed Scholarship.
Checks should be made to Texas State University Development Foundation and mailed to:
Texas State University
Advancement Services, JCK-480
601 University Drive
San Marcos, Texas 78666