Robert Hollis Hensleigh
1918 - 1989
a great flight Dad"
Hollis Hensleigh -- aviator, inventor, entrepreneur, humanitarian,
father -- was born in Iowa on April 11, 1918, and spent his early
childhood in Edinburg and Kingsville, Texas. He later attended
Iowa State College and the State University of Iowa, studying
physics under Dr. James A. Van Allen, who later discovered the
radiation belts in space.
Bob Hensleigh became a project engineer at General
Motors and Continental Motors in Detroit, a senior mechanical
engineer at Collins Radio Company in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and in
1956 he became a project engineer at Bell Helicopter in Fort Worth,
Soon Bob's rugged independence won out over common
sense, as some would say. He left Bell Helicopter, striking out
on his own. He established the Hensleigh Corporation with himself
as president. His successful company manufactured optical and
mechanical devices including lenses for NASA simulators, aircraft
instrument lighting systems for military and civilian aircraft
and helicopters, and even the instrument lighting system for the
ultra-stylish DeLorean automobile. Bob also held numerous patents
on various inventions.
He was a charter member of the Optical Society
of Texas, past president of the Fort Worth Astronomical Society,
a member of the Antique Aircraft Association, and a member of
the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.
Aviation was always a big part of Bob's life. He
bought his Navion airplane (serial #11, the 11th Navion off the
assembly line) new in January 1947. He flew everywhere in it even
as far as the Hudson Bay and into Central America. One of Bob's
pet projects involved donating his time and airplane to the service
of Wings of Hope. He flew several trips into the jungles of Guatemala
to deliver medical supplies, airplane parts, clothing and other
necessities to the Mayan Indians whose lives had been decimated
by civil war.
Bob's hobbies included photography and riding his
Honda Goldwing motorcycle all over the country, even from Fort
Worth to Alaska and Guatemala. He loved music of all kinds although
his favorite was the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta HMS Pinafore.
Bob died July 5, 1989, after a long, full life.
He is survived by seven children and four grandchildren. His oldest
son Bob Jr., is a professional photographer; Linda is a business
owner; Diane is a Learjet 60 captain with Bombardier Aerospace;
Barbara and Lucy are both attorneys; Bert is the manager of part
of a large grocery store chain; and David is a professional artist
Your spirit is always with us. We still know
the words to the HMS Pinafore by heart We remember the abandoned
puppy whose head popped out of your leather motorcycle jacket
when you brought him home to us one night. We remember butterfly
kisses and know what it is like to drive a Studebaker. We loved
looking out into the dark Texas sky with one of your big telescopes
and then taking the tour of Kitt Peak on our first trip to Arizona.
Have a great trip, Dad. We can hardly wait
to hear all about it.