NEW YORK—Memories of a "larger than life" personality, an industry leader, mentor and friend to so many poured in earlier this week about the late Henry Shyer, vice-chairman of Zyloware, who passed away last weekend on Oct. 10, as VMAIL reported. Services were held by the Shyer family (and live streamed via Zoom and Facebook) for Shyer, who was recognized by suppliers, laboratory executives, his company team and associates, retailers and distributors for his contributions to the modern eyewear industry and his funny and fierce sense of humor and friendship.
Vision Monday/VMAIL received many notes and also reached out to other friends and colleagues to share their thoughts and some stories.
Marty Bassett, president and CEO of Walman: "Henry was that rarest of individuals that made our industry feel small and welcoming. He was beloved by customers, vendors and competitors for his kindness and generosity. I felt extremely fortunate to have Henry as a friend and a mentor and I will miss his energy and humor at our next Vision Expo. My heart goes out to his family and the employees at Zyloware."
From The Vision Council: "Henry was an industry leader having served on the board and as chairman of the board of the Optical Manufacturers Association (OMA). He was instrumental in helping ensure the future success of the OMA by supporting efforts to expand its membership and was a force in the negotiations of the organization’s merger with VICA (Vision Industry Council of America). After the merger, he continued to serve as a member of its Eyewear & Accessories Division, frequently voicing his opinions about changes needed for the organization. He was an early proponent of increasing the industry’s presence on Capitol Hill, which has ultimately led to the success of The Vision Council’s government & regulatory affairs program today."
James Anderson, legal counsel to The Vision Council: “Henry Shyer was a great and wonderful man much loved by members of the optical industry and all who came in contact with him. A conversation with Henry was always a joy, and if you had the opportunity to have dinner with him you always had a delightful and memorable evening. I had the pleasure of knowing Henry for over 40 years and have many pleasant memories. His passing leaves a hole in my life and he will be greatly missed.”
Henry Shyer with his wife, Bonnie Shyer.
Greeting Shaquille O'Neal at Vision Expo.
Catching up with Randy Jackson at the Zyloware booth.
Art Salas, vice president, optical services, Costco: "The world has lost an amazing man. Henry has always been so passionate about Zyloware and keeping it as a family business that truly cares about every single employee. At trade shows he was one of the first to greet us when we arrived at the Zyloware booth for our meeting, hugging and kissing all the ladies. Henry sat through our meetings, quietly listening, and then he would pull one of us aside and make sure we were being treated well and that we were happy with the business and relationship. He wanted nothing but happiness for his family, and his tears of joy at Jamie and Sarah's wedding filled our hearts. His Costco family will miss him dearly and our Vision Expo meetings will never be the same."
Steve Sutherlin: "I think sometimes the phrase "legend in our industry" gets tossed around much too freely. But in the case of Henry Shyer he truly defined it. Henry could tell you to go to hell and you'd look forward to the trip. He had a heart as big as New York, with a wit and humor to match. I knew him from the very beginning of my career, and I can honestly say that no one had a bigger positive impact on our industry during that time. I'd love to see the line of optical heroes waiting for him at the pearly gates. That must be some party up there!"
Andrea Gluck, principal, Eyewear Designs: "The news was indeed sad—the end of an era. Henry was one of the first people I met in the optical industry. We used to supply product to Zyloware. I remember many times sitting in LIC with Henry, Bob and Barry. He was funny and upbeat but more important he was a mentor before the word was real. Whether you were a friend, customer, or competitor—Henry treated you the same. He never missed the opportunity to call and discuss business or kids. We played golf together at charity events.
We traveled the same routes—domestically and internationally. We were in Cologne Germany together when Chernobyl happened. We made the best of it because of Henry. We made presentations to customers, often at the same time, until one time when Henry jumped on the table, literally—took a $50 bill—ripped it in half and made a contest with the sales people. I said at that moment I would never follow an HS presentation again—it was a losing proposition—and I never did. I could go on and on. A wonderful, selfless man who loved us all—and we loved him."
With his late brother, Robert, Christopher Shyer and Jamie Shyer when they were honored in 2014 by Prevent Blindness.
Reade Fahs, president and CEO, National Vision: "Henry Shyer played a huge role in our industry and changed it mightily and for the better. Beyond his obvious business acumen, he had a big personality that was warm and loving to all—internal associates, customers, and even competitors. At his core, he treated one and all like family. Our industry is more of a community because of how Henry helped to shape it and we are all the beneficiaries of his huge heart.”
Des Taylor, former NVI exec (retired): "I have known Henry and the Shyer family for over 35 years and he was always kind, generous and larger than life. My wife, Gill and I, cannot express enough how much his passing means to us. Our condolences to Bonnie and the family."
David and Peter Friedfeld, ClearVision: "Few people will have helped shape an industry like Henry Shyer helped shape eyewear in the U..S—a significant manufacturer, marketer, philanthropist and industry leader. ClearVision was a distributor of Zyloware from 1949 to 1984 , and our folks always had wonderful stories to share with us about “ Uncle Henry” back in the old days. Henry was an ‘outside’ sounding board for the Friedfeld Family—a friend, a mentor, and confidant. He was a great friend of our parents, Fred and Mimi, and enjoyed socializing with them. We remember and will cherish his great hugs, the warm embrace and fun times whenever we met up with Henry. As young boys in the industry, Henry took us under his wing as he did for so many—always ready to help and always going the extra mile for us. He was THE consummate professional salesperson, a teacher to many and always did for his customers what was best for them. We mourn his passing and we acknowledge his extraordinary life and contributions."
Meera Dua, chief merchandising officer, AEG Vision: "Everyone knows how full of life Henry was and how much he liked pulling off a good joke/prank on his friends. I have many memories of laughing so hard my side hurt. He exuded joy and made those around
him happy. Many on the vendor side of the business will genuinely talk about how much they learned from him as a businessman and a salesman as he always had a lesson to teach and those around him were the lucky recipients of his knowledge and wisdom. For those of us on the buying side, you often do not hear of a vendor being acknowledged for mentoring and helping to build careers, but for me, Henry was one of those exceptions.
I lost my father too early in life and he would have been the one I would have gone to for advice and council when it came to business. I first met Henry as an assistant buyer eager to grow and learn but also a bit skeptical of all the sales pitches and advice I was receiving. What I will miss more than anything are those great big teddy bear hugs Henry was great at giving that made you feel warm, safe and happy. Our world’s will be different without Henry in it but the memories and life lessons he taught us all we will keep close forever."
Jim Eisen, B&Z Marketing: "I've had the pleasure of calling Henry a friend for the past 20 years. We hit it off from the day we met. He told me a joke during our first conversation. His warmth, generosity, and passion were evident. One of his most outstanding qualities was that he was always available. I learned so much about the industry from Henry. I admired him for the love and devotion he had for his personal family and the Zyloware family."
David Holmberg, president/CEO, Highmark Inc.: "Henry was a mentor, friend and made me feel like I was a part of the family. Early on in my career I found myself on an overnight flight to Milan for Mido. When Henry noticed I was on the plane, he switched seats with another passenger and we talked all night. He coached me on what I should expect and taught me the things I would need to know to excel in the industry. And that wasn't the last time he kept teaching."
Marc Ferrara, CEO, Jobson Medical Information: "We all know Henry was a true leader and a visionary, whose fundamental belief in the possibility of everyone's ability to make our world and our industry a better place, inspired many of us to become our better selves. For me, Henry provided a model on which to build my own career in the optical industry. His generosity, his toughness when needed, his creative thinking, his exceptional salesmanship, all of these traits, helped me move forward on my path. His knowing smile and approval was a treasure. And for all of this, I'm forever grateful."
John Alofs, Eyewear by ROI: "I was working for Avant Garde at the corporate headquarters in 1985. During the Optifair that year in New York I ran into Henry and said that I was thinking of leaving and starting my own frame company. He gave me a smirk and growled, “there are too many frame companies already, but take your shot if you need to.” Zyloware was a family optical business that was inspirational for me. I started Eyewear by ROI, six months after our talk. That was 35 years ago."
Roger Shyer, founder Eastern States Eyewear: "We were cousins but he became my 'big brother.' The first time I met him I was 6 years old, and my Uncle Joe, Henry's father, Joe Shyer, had bought a new TV. It was 1947 and my father, Ben, asked me if I wanted to visit to watch the World Series. I met Henry in his room and noticed he was a Yankee Fan, while I was a Brooklyn Dodgers' fan. We became close, and I called him Hank, like many did, We went to Camp Alamar together and remained so close. He was an icon there, an amazing athlete, in virtually every sport. He looked out for me. In business, we had a great relationship, a mutual respect for each other. He was one of a kind."
Harvey Ross, HMR Holdings: When we first started Viva, Henry and Bob Shyer were the big guys with Zyloware—I was the alley cat, 'who is this guy'...? But we became friends, and Henry was always warm, friendly and a great, great salesman. He never acted like the big shot, he was a very real guy...he built much of this business."
Ed Dietz III, Dietz Laboratories: "I’ve known Henry for 55 years. He was a close family friend, and we called him Uncle Henry. He was a good friend of my dad. Every time Uncle Henry made a sales call at Dietz Lab in Fort Worth, he’d visit us at our house. I have four younger sisters, and we all just thought the world of him."
Steve Horowitz, president, Eyewear Designs: "Forty-two years ago I was a young key account sales rep. I didn’t know many buyers but I knew how to use the telephone. Buyers kept telling me “You sound like Henry Shyer.” As that became more common I started to respond “That’s because I am Henry’s son.”
“ But Jamie is Henry’s son.”
“True but I am his illegitimate son and he’s helping me get started in the industry.”
I was in the biz maybe three years then. I didn’t know Henry but I knew he was a big deal. It didn’t take but a couple of weeks of telling that story until I got a phone call.
“Is this Steve Horowitz?”
“This is Henry #$@* Shyer and what is this story you’re telling to my customers?” and he goes on, just taking me apart. I’m nervous and scared and then about three minutes in…
“ Kid—this is a great shtick and we’re gonna keep it going!”
And he—and we did. And from that I drafted behind Henry’s energy, power and complete sincerity and under his umbrella and guidance I became one the big boys with all the commensurate benefits of being one of Henry’s friends. And for 40 more years Henry continued to be able to scare me on occasion just to show me he still could. He changed my life and I have been trying to pay that forward ever since. We’ve lost a giant."