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In memorium: BendPak founder Don Henthorn spent life lifting up the vehicle industry

April 2, 2024
Henthorn, 85, passed away peacefully at his home on March 28, 2024.

Don Henthorn, owner and founder of one Bendpak, Inc.—of the world’s leading vehicle lift manufacturers—peacefully passed away at home Thursday, March 28, the company announced. He was 85.

Henthorn had transitioned day-to-day management of Bendpak to current CEO and President Jeff Kritzer in 2022.

Read more: BendPak founder reflects on career lifting up the vehicle repair industry | Fleet Maintenance

“Don’s visionary leadership and unwavering dedication have been the cornerstone of BendPak’s success. His passion, wisdom, and guidance have left an indelible mark on all of us and the organization,” said Kritzer, who Henthorn worked with for 40 years and considered a member of his family. “His legacy lives on through the values and principles he instilled in our company. He was not only a leader, but also a mentor, inspiring all of us to strive for excellence and to never settle for anything else.”

As chairman emeritus, he reportedly still came to the office six days a week to coach employees. He prided himself on knowing the name of everyone who worked for him. Henthorn had previously said the secret to BendPak’s success was that “we outwork everybody.”

The privately owned company said management and operations will remain unchanged. Along with the popular BendPak line of lifts for auto and commercial vehicle industries, the company oversees Ranger, Cool Boss, MaxJax, Dannmar, and several other brands.

Henthorn is survived by his wife, Ginger, daughter, Susan, and grandchildren Annika, Reagan, Carson, and Kennedy. He was preceded in death by his son, Gary.

A life of service

After serving in the U.S. Army, Henthorn and his wife moved from Connecticut to Simi Valley, California in 1959, where he worked in the aerospace industry. The machine shop he started up in 1965, Quality Machine & Associates, provided parts to several aircraft manufacturers.

He would go on to become an inventor, first creating a ball-joint replacement tool for automotive front ends called the 5ivePak, an all-in-one tool comprising a coil spring compressor, U-joint press, and gear puller. He also patented the Macpherson Strut Spring Compressor and a handheld portable hydraulic tailpipe extender.

As emissions became more focused on California in the late 1970s, Henthorn dedicated more time and effort to muffler products and changed the company name to BendPak.

In 1983, after listening to customers’ requests, Henthorn and his team invented BendPak’s first four-post lift and entered the vehicle lift market. In the next 40 years, the company sold more than 500,000 vehicle lifts.

And in the last decade, the company increased revenue by 200%.

Of all the successes Henthorn achieved in his life, he considered lifting up those around him at the top of the list. This included everyone from the millions of repair technicians who benefited from safer lifting platforms to those who worked for the company he founded.

“I’ve been so blessed to have been able to choose the right people to do the jobs, and I pride myself in being pretty good at selecting staff, including Jeff Kritzer, of course, but there’s a whole list behind him,” Henthorn said in 2022. “There are a lot of people who have been with me for over 30 years. And I really appreciate those people we have.”

About the Author

John Hitch | Editor-in-chief, Fleet Maintenance

John Hitch is the editor-in-chief of Fleet Maintenance, where his mission is to provide maintenance management and technicians with the the latest information on the tools and strategies to keep their fleets' commercial vehicles moving.

He is based out of Cleveland, Ohio, and has worked in the B2B journalism space for more than a decade.

Hitch was previously senior editor for FleetOwner, and covers everything related to trucking and commercial vehicle equipment, including breaking news, the latest trends and best practices. He previously wrote about manufacturing and advanced technology for IndustryWeek and New Equipment Digest.

Prior to that he was editor for Kent State University's student magazine, The Burr, and a freelancer for Cleveland Magazine. He is an award-winning journalist and former sonar technician, where he served honorably aboard the fast-attack submarine USS Oklahoma City (SSN-723).