by James Shanks
The North Carolina Region has lost one of its great souls. On August 20th of this year, Phil Hennrich passed away from natural causes. Near the end, he was not able to recognize his oldest friends, but we all remember him. It’s truly amazing how many people with a long history in this Region have said to me, when I would ask how they got started in the Club, “Phil Hennrich was the first member of NCR I ever met,” and following that they’d have a story about a race at Rockingham or a solo in the Raleigh area. From his earliest days, and he joined in April of 1974, Phil volunteered his time to make this Club a success. He was an active driver, the Region’s Treasurer for many years before computerization and afterward, the radio guy, and basically the go-to guy. He worked tirelessly at VIR when the Region presented that facility with its gazebo corner stations in 2002, helping to transport them and set them up and practically single-handedly built the South Course Start stand. Always ready to pitch in and help, that was Phil. We gave him a Lifetime Service award in 2005 (below, that’s then RE Kaye Fairer presenting it), but it wasn’t enough.
We’ll miss you, Phil. I’d say more, but I cannot match the eloquence and poignancy of the eulogy written by his closest friend, Chuck Stanley, our former Flag Chief.
Over to you, Chuck…
Never to Be Imitated
It is said the best compliment is imitation. In many ways this can be viewed as accurate, but in other ways there are some things, some people in your lives that just stand by themselves. Phil Hennrich was one of those people in my life who Stands Alone, rightfully and respectfully so.
I first met Phil when I came to the NCR Region in 1989 from Florida. Phil was actually the first NCR person who greeted me at Rockingham when I went down to watch a region event on a Saturday, and get the lay of the land of my newly found region. I arrived at 6:15 a.m. that morning and did not go down with the intent to work the race. Phil was at the registration trailer and immediately asked if I could carry this, or move that, as he was frantically trying to get some of the infrastructure ready so others could race that morning. I asked him if I was required to register, he just said come on with him and we would come back later. I gladly jumped in and within 90 minutes he had transformed three tirewalls that were all in disarray, we dug too many holes to remember to replace Armco barriers, and he got the radios going all before the scheduled green course. He then asked me, if I didn’t mind, could I help him get a few tires out of his race car as he was in the second race group and was running out of time. I had met Phil, the Phil I affectionately have come to know as the most dedicated NCR member I ever have met, and I doubt anyone will ever come close to passing beyond that, for me.
Phil and I spent many hours together since those early days from Rockingham, Roebling Road as our interim home, and then VIR. No one is a Phil Hennrich, nor will anyone ever be able to imitate him. That is not a non-complimentary comment, it is an honorable compliment toward what Phil was as a man, an NCR member, and a true friend. There was no other like Phil, and God made sure that is true. From helping layout the reopening of VIR, to keeping Rockingham up to date with his thoughts and ideas as our Region continued negotiations with track ownership in possible use and their growth, to being by my side countless hours in what I called the “Perch” at VIR, Phil was there for everyone.
I received the email from James relative to Phil’s passing just 30 minutes ago. The last few times I had gone over to see Phil I had witnessed his decline, to the point he was not aware of who I was the last 4 times I stopped in. This decline was devastating to me to see, I was beginning to feel selfish a tad in that I was watching such a great person and friend leave me… Rather it became very evident a collective group of people in Phil’s life were losing a great friend, a comrade who did for all while he put himself at the back of the bus. How else could anyone explain why, for all that time, would a guy race a frickin Pinto, if it were not that they are thinking of others over themselves?
(below, Phil’s Pinto on track at VIR in 2003)
There are many ways to express love, appreciation, dedication and friendship. Phil fit the bill of all that and more to me. Since Phil became inactive in our racing world I have felt a personal void I am still dealing with. Now that he has passed, and having witnessed the stages, I know my good friend is only saving me a spot at the “Perch” and one day we will be once again trading stories, we will be drinking Orange soda and eating baloney sandwiches, watching each other’s backs. Godspeed my friend, my heart aches.
Respectfully Your Friend
On many occasions over the years, Phil has visited the Start Stand at VIR during an event to bring replacement radios or headsets or just to visit. Having built the South Course Start Stand, he was always very aware of the less-than-ideal construction of the main one and sometimes even brought a hammer to make repairs! He once told me, “Y’know, people could hurt themselves on these nails sticking out here!”. As Chuck said, always thinking of others. I really miss you, Phil!
My first memory of Phil was attending an SCCA autocross before I was an SCCA member. I recall being surprised that he appeared to be putting on the event all by himself! The event went well and everyone had a good time so apparently he was able to pull it off.
My later memories of Phil were about how incredibly dedicated he was, how “invisible” he was in all that he did for the Region, and how challenging he was to keep on topic! I wish I had a dime for every time he said “anyway”
or “moving right along”. Whatever had to be done, Phil was there, taking care of business without any complaints.
Others probably have a better handle on his contributions but I recall he had major roles in doing what was necessary so we could run at Rockingham, installation of the gazebos at VIR, purchasing, hauling, distributing, and keeping up all of the Region’s equipment, and serving as Treasurer for many years (I think we had to pry that duty out of his hands 🙂 )
Phil was always the one who spent his time during the “social” hours Saturday evenings repairing the guardrails at Rockingham so we could race on Sunday. That was Phil; always doing what had to be done without having to be told, helping others and asking nothing in return. A true treasure to the club and will be sorely missed.
The following photos were contributed by Pete Romanowski:
Phil on track at VIR in SARRC/MARRS 2010.
Paul Hoecke, Phil, Pete Romanowski. I guess the old Pinto gave out on this day!
If you would like to submit your own “Phil” story or photos to be added to this memoir, please send then to
Bruce Dover at [email protected] Please include caption info with photos.