Schlitterbahn founder Bob Henry dies
Known as “Mr. Bob,” Robert “Bob” Henry took a New Braunfels campground and built a chain of water parks called Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts that became regarded as a leading brand in water theme parks.
Henry died at his home Monday night in New Braunfels following a lengthy illness. He was 89.
Henry was known for “his very strong work ethic,” Schlitterbahn Communications Director Winter Prosapio said Tuesday. “He was hands-on, a craftsman. He and his family all worked on renovating the resort rooms, the wiring and everything. He passed all that on to his family.
“The whole mission of Schlitterbahn was so that the family could stay together in the business,” Prosapio said. Three generations of Henry’s family now work at the company.
While operating and expanding Schlitterbahn, Henry was active in the New Braunfels community, notably with the Wurstfest Association of New Braunfels.
Henry also created an endowment fund in 1995 at Texas State University in nearby San Marcos to provide scholarships for Schlitterbahn staff members.
Henry attended Oklahoma A&M College, which is now Oklahoma State University. He obtained a master’s degree in accounting before moving to Houston to work for the accounting firm Arthur Andersen. In 1958, he moved to Panama to operate an office; he returned to the United States in 1963.
In 1966, Henry purchased a campground resort in New Braunfels called Camp Landa. Henry, wife Billye and their three children worked to improve the resort, including building slides into the nearby river for resort guests.
As interest in the slides grew, the family developed a larger complex of slides and decided to come up with a name reflecting New Braunfels’ German heritage. The name was a combination of Schlitter, the German word for “slippery,” and Bahn, the German word for “road.” Schlitterbahn opened in 1979.
By the 1990s, Schlitterbahn Waterpark and Resorts had grown to more than 65 acres, hundreds of rooms, dozens of slides and children water playgrounds. Since 2001, it has added facilities at South Padre Island, Galveston, Corpus Christi and Kansas City, Kansas.
In 2003, Henry was inducted into the New Braunfels Chamber Hall of Honor. The World Waterpark Association inducted Henry into its Hall of Fame in 2013.
At one point, Henry retired officially. “But he was always active in the business. He had a strong interest in being an innovator. It never left him,” Prosapio said.
The company history was marred in August when a 10-year-old boy, Caleb Thomas Schwab, died while riding a 17-story water slide at Schlitterbahn Kansas City. Schwab was the son of Kansas State Rep. Scott Schwab. The death is still under investigation.
Henry “was devastated when he heard about the accident in Kansas City,” Prosapio said. “It was challenging and difficult.”
MySA.com Staff Writer Kelsey Bradshaw contributed to this article.