Tulsa Businessman, Philanthropist Henry Zarrow Dies At 97

Sunday, January 19th 2014, 9:51 am
By: News On 6

Tulsa philanthropist and businessman Henry Zarrow is dead. The philanthropist and businessman died Saturday, January 18, 2014, at age 97.

Henry Zarrow was born February 12, 1916, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His parents moved to Tulsa when Zarrow was an infant.

"My dad was going to going to go into the steel business in Sapulpa, but it turned out one of his relatives had a grocery store so he ended up buying that," Zarrow said.

Zarrow started working in the store at age 6 and opened his first business - a West Tulsa grocery store - when he was only 13 years old. He graduated from Central High School after only two-and-a-half years. He attended the University of Oklahoma and University of Tulsa.

He opened Sooner Pipe and Iron at age 22, the same year he married Anne. The couple had two children, Stuart and Judy. They were married 65 years before she died in 2000.

He acquired several other businesses over the years expanding further into the oil business until becoming an international concern in the 1960s. After a successful career, Zarrow sold his last company in 1998 at age 82.

Zarrow described his wife Anne as his greatest influence in becoming a generous sponsor of those less fortunate than themselves. The Zarrow Family Foundations describe their mission with the words of Maimonides, a Jewish rabbi, physician and philosopher: "To give in such a way as to prevent poverty."

The Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation funds many causes in Oklahoma, especially education and other children's issues, homelessness and poverty. The Foundation has given to nonprofits including the Tulsa Day Center for the Homeless, Neighbor for Neighbor, The Center for the Physically Limited, and LIFE Senior Services.

Tulsa Public Schools greatly benefits from the Zarrow Foundation. In 2002, when the school system had to slash budgets in a sudden mid-year shortfall, Zarrow gave the district $1 million in a challenge grant. Zarrow International School, named for "Mr. Henry," is located at 3613 South Hudson Avenue.

The Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation of Tulsa gave $5 million to the University of Oklahoma's School of Social work in 2009 as a 92nd birthday present to Mr. Henry. The Foundation has also made significant gifts to the Tulsa City-County Library system.

The Henry Zarrow Center for Art and Education opened in the spring of 2012 in the Brady Arts District. It is located at 124 East Brady. Henry Zarrow also served on the board of Saint Francis Hospital.

Listen to Henry Zarrow tell his life story at Voices of Oklahoma