Ducks Unlimited’s 34th president, Gene Henry, served DU in a leadership capacity for more than 25 years, and in 2018 celebrates his 50th year of involvement with the organization. Starting as a committee volunteer, Gene rose through the ranks to become Wisconsin state chair, a member of DU’s board of directors, and president. For most, stepping back from something they have invested so much time and energy in would be an immense challenge. But not for Gene. His motto is simple: “Stay long enough to get the job done and then move on.”
Gene and his wife, Betty, called Wisconsin home for many years. It was there that they raised their two children, Tori and Brent. It was also there that they built a successful fabricating company and Gene began his long legacy with DU. “I was working for a stainless-steel fabricating company during the day and moonlighting as a welder,” Gene recalls. “The owner of the welding company was very involved with DU and suggested that I join the local committee, which I did. Shortly after, I purchased that small company.”
After 30 years of growth and success, Gene sold his company in 1998 and has been happily and actively retired since, spending much of his time hunting, fly fishing, and traveling with Betty. It was around the time that Gene retired from DU’s board of directors in 2008, and around that time the Henrys moved from Wisconsin to the beautiful corner of the Ozark Mountains where they reside today. With Tori and Brent and their families already living in Rogers, Arkansas, the move let Gene and Betty be as involved as possible in the role they love the most: being grandparents.
During his time as president, Gene made many leadership decisions designed to encourage duck hunters from all walks of life to become members of Ducks Unlimited. He also emphasized the importance of recognizing smaller donors, the ones who form the backbone of local DU committees across this great country. Gene visited all 50 states during his presidency, meeting, thanking, and inspiring the supporters and volunteers that he so valued.
The impact of Gene’s work remains evident today. The same volunteers that he inspired as president in the 1990s have passed the torch to a new generation and now make up a large share of DU’s Major Sponsors. This ability to motivate others is a true testament to Gene’s influence, leadership, and commitment to DU’s mission.