Pittsburgh muni bond veteran Paul Henry remembered

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Friends and former co-workers fondly recalled Paul Henry as an extraordinary person and professional over his nearly 50 years in the municipal bond industry.

“I can’t say anything but good things about him,” longtime friend and colleague Thomas Smith said of Mr. Henry, who died last Friday at age 81 in his native Pittsburgh.

Mr. Henry excelled at trading, underwriting and sales since beginning his career in 1960 at the First National Bank in Chicago. He worked for many firms over the years, owning Henry Kearns Municipals, West Penn Municipals and BFA Municipal Securities.

“There were a lot of smaller firms in those days,” Smith said. “Everywhere he went, he had a great rapport with the buyers. There was a lot of new-money issuance because people were building.”

Mr. Henry was president of the Bond Club of Pittsburgh and was a member of the Pennsylvania Association of Municipal Traders. He was involved in the original 1969 financing of Three Rivers Stadium, home to the football Steelers and baseball Pirates until 2000. He was also a longtime Steelers fan.

His talent, creativity and knack as a raconteur won over people.

“During a time when Pittsburgh was a center of commerce and industry, Paul was a colorful legend in the municipal bond business,” said the obituary on the Slater Funeral Service website.

Paul Baroffio, now a managing director for sales at R.W. Baird & Co., recalled working at Prescott, Ball & Turben when Mr. Henry joined the firm from Russell, Rea & Zappala, founded by former Steelers linebacker Andy Russell.

"I was a clerk on the bond desk when he came over to Prescott," Baroffio said. "He sat right across from me and said: 'Well, kid, I'm going to watch you for a month to see if you can make it, And if I don't think you can make it, I'll see that you get a job somewhere else.

"I owe him a lot. He made things happen. He was a pretty creative guy when it came to getting bonds."

Born in Pittsburgh, Mr. Henry spent most of his early years in Pittsburgh’s Brushtown neighborhood, about 10 miles east of downtown.

“He grew up in very humble beginnings,” Smith said.

Mr. Henry graduated from Westinghouse High School and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh, while working full-time at the Pittsburgh Lake Erie train station and the YMCA as a laborer.

His personal interests included classical music, Gilbert and Sullivan and Sousa marches.

Mr. Henry also loved dogs, having once owned 12 Dobermans simultaneously. His final puppies were miniature Dachshunds, Max, Otto and Erika.

He was on innumerable boards and commissions, was as an Amateur Athletic Union swimming official, football and soccer coach and a member of the Duquesne Club for 45 years.

“We always had a great time working together,” said DiPucci, an associate of Mr. Henry at Commonwealth Securities and Investments Inc. and Babbitt, Myers & Co. “He and I never had an argument.”

DiPucci recalled Mr Henry’s executive profile on the Bloomberg News site: “It’s better to be a has-been than a never was.”

Mr. Henry leaves his wife, Helen Billak, who was by his side at his passing; his children, Cynthia (Vince) Pinto; Pamela (Craig) Moss; Martin Henry; and Alexandra (Lewis) Henry-McDonald; and five grandchildren. He is also survived by his sister, Arlene Henry; in-laws John and Kathy Billak; his former wife, Judith Hollein; and his extended family.

Funeral Service will be 10 a.m. Friday at St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania.

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City of Pittsburgh, PA Pennsylvania