Henry B. Lancz, 86, an immigrant from postwar Germany who learned English and built a successful North Toledo heating and air conditioning business, died Tuesday in Toledo Hospital.
Mr. Lancz, of South Toledo, suffered head injuries Sunday in a fall at Flower Hospital, where he was recovering from pneumonia, his son Alan said.
For nearly 50 years, Mr. Lancz owned and managed Buckeye Heating & Air Conditioning, a one-man operation that grew into a work force of 30. He sold the business about five years ago.
"He started from scratch," said Werner Barteck, who was a teenager in the mid-1950s when he and his family arrived in Toledo from Germany. They were sponsored by Mr. Lancz.
Buckeye Heating was on Elm Street for many years and, later on Cherry Street, and its customers were mainly homeowners. As he hired workers, he assigned them to install the furnaces and air conditioning units and duct work. He ran the office and made sales calls.
"I run a business, and when I think about the work involved and the difficulty, to come to a foreign country not knowing the language or much about the culture and to a city you never heard of, I can't imagine how he, even six years later, decided to start a business - and over several decades built it into a successful business for Toledo," his son said.
Mr. Lancz's English was good, and he even spoke some Polish, Mr. Barteck said. But it was his rapport with people that fueled his success. "He was very good at sales. He had an unbelievably good personality with other people," Mr. Barteck said.
Mr. Lancz was born June 30, 1923, in Germany and was in the German Army during World War II.
He heard about the American dream, his son said, and faced with postwar hardship, he, his wife, Josephine, and their son, Harry, decided to emigrate in 1951. Their arrival in the United States and placement in Toledo were sponsored by a Catholic group.
"He and my mom learned [English] watching TV, and he was picking up janitorial and service-type jobs, and he educated himself on the language until he felt comfortable enough to start his own business," his son said.
Even in the early days of Buckeye Heating, Mr. Lancz often worked two jobs to support his wife and three sons.
"He did the hard work to make it easy for us," son Alan said. "He cared and tried to make things better for people. I think that's why he developed a loyal following in business."
Mr. Lancz learned to ski in Germany, and he taught his sons when they were young. He skied until he was 78. From 1967 until the mid-1970s, he was ski school director of the Irish Hills Sports Park in Onsted, Mich. The Lancz family spent winter weekends on the slopes of Boyne in northwest lower Michigan, where they had a cottage.
He played golf, and liked international travel, which included several around-the-world cruises, Mr. Barteck said.
The family lived for several years at Grandview Beach near LaSalle, Mich.
Mr. Lancz's first wife, Josephine, died in 1987. His second wife, Emmy, died in 2009.
Surviving are his sons, Harry, Frank, and Alan; brother, Alfred; sister, Herta Kolendowski, and seven grandchildren.
The body will be in the Dowling Funeral Home, New West Road at King Road, Sylvania Township, after 4 p.m. today. Graveside services will be at 11 a.m. tomorrow in Ottawa Hills Memorial Park.
The family suggests tributes to the American Cancer Society or the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
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