The only way to describe Enrique "Hank" Orozco was that he was a gentleman. I met him a number of years ago when he came up to me and asked me where I had purchased my fedora. He also wore one, and we discussed hats and where to buy them for about 10 minutes. He was also a member of my athletic club in Chicago.
From time to time, we would meet and the subject of hats came up on more than one occasion. He always had a smile on his face, and he seemed to know each club member by his first name. He obviously loved people, and people responded positively to him as well.
He died last week at age 92.
As I read his obituary in the Chicago Tribune, I noted that he was still very active until a few days before he died, though I had not seem him for a while. He attributed his long life to taking vitamins, walking two miles a day and hitting about 100 golf balls at the athletic club almost every day.
He was described by a business associate as an elegant man with manners from another era. For instance, he tipped his hat and opened doors for women. When walking in the company of ladies, he would walk closest to the curb.
Aside from all of this, Orozco had a brilliant business career founding a company that formulated, manufactured and sold lubricating oil to the steel industry.
He was born in Columbia and came to the U.S. in his late teens. Like so many immigrants, he ended up serving in the military for his new country. He was in active duty during World War II.
But there's more to the Orozco story; it involves his wife, who passed away in the mid-1990s. In 1997, he donated her vast collection of 1,000 antique dolls, valued at about $1 million, to the Illinois State Museum in Springfield. He never got over the loss of his wife, and on every Valentine's Day and her birthday he would bring home flowers to celebrate those wonderful memories of the love of his life.
Orozco looked and acted 20 years younger than his age. He was fun to be around because he had a great sense of humor and treated people so well. When I meet people like Orozco, I never fail to be impressed with the sense of caring they have for others.
It is such a stark contrast to the bad behavior that is becoming so common in our society. A day doesn't go by that I don't remark on some act of rudeness, either toward me or someone else. So many people cut off others in traffic and sidewalks. How many times do you hear people say "please" and "thank you" to one another? Not very often. How often do you witness someone interrupt people while they are speaking? Every day. Most people seem to have lost their grace or never had it in the first place. It's almost as if they don't recognize the needs of others or think they are important. Sometimes I think they literally don't even notice that there are people around them; they are so focused on their own needs and wants.
The reason we are called civilized is because we have bonded together to help support one another. The golden rule is no longer in force, but people still think they should be treated with the kind of respect they fail to give to others.
This lack of civility extends to the executive suite. Corporate executives are being asked to attend etiquette schools to learn how to behave in polite society. Many don't know how to treat guests at social functions. They treat co-workers like servants. They fail to share credit for success, and they pass blame for their own failings.
Contrast that with the anecdotes in the obituary of Hank Orozco. When he lunched with friends, he would often chat with the restaurant staff. After his meal, he would often walk one longtime friend back to his office, stopping to buy a carnation to give to the man's secretary.
"He was the type of person if someone had a need, he would pay a medical bill or pay for an attorney and would insist they not say anything," one friend said.
Orozco often asked why his wife had died and he had lived on for so many years. Another friend replied that "God kept him alive because he brought joy to everyone he met."
It may be that Orozco's manners and style are from a bygone era, particularly in his treatment of women. I am told that being courtly to women is viewed as sexist. The problem with this view is that people were charmed by him, especially women, even those far younger than he was.
He should be a role model for everyone looking to improve their manners and win friends. Every little act of kindness goes a long way toward countering the breakdown in civility that afflicts our society.
May there be many more men like Hank Orozco.
Hank had it right.