When Henry Gonzalez was 17 years old, he enlisted in the marines. He then spent 13 weeks in boot camp in San Diego. He rose at 4:30am daily, ran, trained, marched, took classes and practiced gun drills. It was as challenging as it’s reported to be: of the 35 marines in his platoon, 10 dropped out during the training program.
And even though Henry recalls a moment when he thought, “What did I get myself into?!” his commitment never waivered. After graduating, he served in the Corp’s infantry for four years, based in Camp Pendleton. His most memorable experiences include a 9-month deployment to Japan, Korea and the Philippines.
A few years after Henry returned to Chicago, he met Sallie, the friend of a member of the dart team he captained at a neighborhood bar. Henry and Sallie became fast friends – best friends – and after six months began dating. Nine months later they married. “Everyone said it wouldn’t last,” Henry recalls with a laugh. Next month Henry and Sallie will celebrate their 24th anniversary. They have raised three sons, now ages 22, 19 and 13, and a daughter who is now 15.
Henry and Sallie continue to carve out quality time together. For the past 10 years, for example, they have spent one weekend a month in Milwaukee. Baseball At first they selected the destination to visit Potawatomi Casino. “That got boring, so we started to explore the downtown area,” explains Henry. We enjoy brewery tours, listening to bands, and just having our Date Night.”
Henry’s favorite time of year is Spring, a.k.a. Little League Baseball season. He’s coached since his eldest son was five years old. He coached his daughter’s team, too (she stopped playing after a few years because “she wanted to earn money, now she works in the concessions stand”) and just finished coaching his youngest son’s team. But this was his son’s final season, so Henry will now hang up his clipboard and whistle. At least for a while. “My 22-year-old says once he has kids, he’ll bring me back out of retirement.”
For the Northern Weathermakers team, it’s fortunate that Henry isn’t thinking about retiring from his day job anytime soon. Some days are especially hectic for the service coordinator; he may field dozens of emergency calls from customers who are upset because they suddenly have no air-conditioning or, in the winter, heat. But with 25 years of industry experience – the past two with us — Henry remains calm and empathetic and is quick to figure out which technician can be dispatched, and when, alleviating the customer’s concern. “No emergency is too small, they are all important to us,” he explains.