My Friend …


To the reader from the author:  This story has been on my blog for a number of months and if you read it now you may notice some changes.  I was asked by one of the family members to remove the story from the blog because they did not feel it represented my friends siblings in the best light.  I was asked by my friends children to keep the story on the blog because they felt it honored their father and they wanted people to know about him.  In trying to meet both requests I have left the basic story of My Friend on the blog but have attempted to move all reference of his extended family and focused only on his spouse and children.  While I did have to mention "a brother" I did remove the brothers name and did not mention any of the other siblings.  Please enjoy!

As I look back on my life I find there are many things I am proud of and some I am not so proud of.  Unfortunately, we don’t get a second chance to live our lives over and improve on those things we are not so proud of.  This is a story of a friend of mine that wished I would have spent a little more time with in later years.  I may have had a chance to impact his life so that it turned out better than it did.  Spoiler alert – my friend is no longer with us as you will read below.  If he were, I think he would be proud that I put this together in remembrance of him.  I hope that his children are proud of what I and they have to say in this article.

Have you ever had a real friend … a friend that you believe would give his life for yours?

Hank

 

I did and I knew him as Hank Khanlar.  I want to tell you about our friendship in this article.

I hope that when I introduce you to my friend that I do so with the dignity and honor that he and his family deserve.  Some of this information comes from my own memories and some from one of his son’s and daughter’s that I interviewed recently on the phone.

Had you told me years ago I’d be writing this … I’d have called you a dreamer.

July 1979

I had moved my family from Berwyn Illinois (the southwest side of Chicago) to Wichita Falls Texas in June 1979.  We moved into a 3 Bedroom 2 Bath home on, what was called at the time, a 5 acre Ranchette.  Actually it was just five acres of land along TX Hwy 79 between Wichita Falls and Archer City, Texas.  For those of you who may not be familiar with Archer City Texas, it is where the movies “Last Picture Show” and 30 years later it sequal “Texasville” was filmed.  These two novels were written by novelist Larry McMurtry who was born in Wichita Falls and lived on a ranch outside of Archer City for much of his younger life.

To give the reader a reference I will provide a couple of maps from Google Maps.

Khanlar map 1

By locating inside of Archer County we were able to reduce real estate taxes by a substantial amount.  However, we did not have some of the luxuries of the city … like sewage and garbage disposal.  We had to burn garbage and use septic systems.

Khanlar Map 2

There have been some huge changes since 1979 as well.  For example … back then there was no DOVE RD and the Khanlar property actually included a pond that we would enjoy fishing in from time to time and it set on 25 acres of land.  The house in the middle was built a couple of years after Hank and I built our house and I remember the week the guy spent digging the pond that you see.

For now, back to my Friend.

As I said, I moved my family into this brand-new home in June 1979.  One day in July we saw a caravan of large trucks bringing in what looked like pre-built walls and ceiling struts.  Actually, it looked like that because that is exactly what it was.  At the time it looked like they were dumping this stuff right next door to our land.  We had no idea what was going on.  Then a few days later the walls and ceiling started going up.  I know it took the guys who built my house several months because we bought it in April … just one day before the big tornado hit Wichita Falls on April 10, 1979 when it was partially completed and did not know if we had a house standing until late May since all phone lines were down.  Right after buying the home on April 9th we went back to Berwyn to prepare to sell our home there.  It seems to me that the Khanlar home was built in about 3 weeks’ time, a lot faster than ours.

One person’s devastation is another person’s opportunity…

The tornado that hit Wichita Falls during the month of April 1979 was devastating.  Here’s some information I picked up on the internet about it.

The 1979 Red River Valley tornado outbreak was a tornado event that occurred on April 101979, near the Red River Valley. It is noted for the F4 tornado that hit Wichita FallsTexas, and is commonly referred to as “Terrible Tuesday” by many meteorologists.  During this two day period (04/10 – 40/11) period there were more than 59 tornadoes reported with 58 fatalities and 100 injuries … mostly in Wichita Falls were I understand a strip of land 1/2 mile wide and 8 miles long was totally demolished.

Hank and his family lived somewhere in the area that was affected.  That was there bad luck … but it was also what helped Hank to become an independent business man.  More on this later.  For now here are a few words about the devastation from his daughter, Michelle, his youngest child:

One of the earliest memories of my dad was when I was about four years old.  It was when the tornado hit.  I remember we were all playing outside and mom just had the feeling that something bad was going to happen.  I think it had to do with the fact that she was raised in Kansas – and Kansas get’s tornadoes all the time.

Sure enough, about 5:30 mom was rounding us up when the tornado hit and my dad had just gotten home from work.  I remember my mom pulling us three kids into the bathtub and holding on to us as tight as she could.  I can remember screaming for my daddy because he wasn’t there.  He finally got in the tub and was able to hold all of us.  It became very quiet and Dad thought the tornado was over.  My mom begged him not to get out of the bathtub but he wanted to check it out to see if it was safe.  I’m guessing there was silence because it was passing over our house.

My dad never made it back to the bathtub.  He was hit in the head with a 2 x 4 board or some other piece of wood. He was knocked unconscious and was not able to get himself to safety.  I can remember when it was over the entire area was just in shambles and unrecognizable.

My parents had to send us to Kansas to live with our grandparents for a few weeks.  My parents decided to rebuild while we were gone.  My daddy built that house on Archer City Highway from the ground up.  I was never more excited than to come home to that house.  That’s when our family life felt like it was able to finally begin.  Maybe its because I was older and could remember more.

It was around mid July that my wife, kids and I was out of the house cleaning up our yard and noticed a family next door with some small children (about the ages of our kids).  We decided to go over and introduce ourselves.  We walked through the weeds between the two properties (not realizing at the time that they were probably full of rattlesnakes) and formally introduced the Nix’s to the Khanlar’s.

I knew the minute I shook his hand that the Dad of this family was a hard worker with his hands.  He had a firm handshake and it was like holding a piece of roofing tile, his hands were so rough.  After about 20 minutes of introductions and small talk Hank motioned for me to step away from the group for a minute.  In a low voice that was not audible to the rest he said, “Listen Jerry, there is something you need to know and I need to put it out on the table now.  Most people around here think I am an American born Mexican because of my Texas accent and skin color.  However, I was actually born and raised in Iran.  I learned to drop the accent when I was in the Iranian Air force being trained at Lackland AFB in San Antonio.  If you have something against Iranians, I thought I should let you know before any surprises.”  All while he was talking – and even though he was smiling – I knew he was serious.

I told him I had nothing against Iranians since they had done nothing against me.  I was married to a woman from Vietnam – which he already had learned – so I was okay with people from other countries.  He then told me his first name was actually Khosrow (pronounced kosrow) and he was given the first name of Henry by the people who sponsored him for his green card when he came over here.  He chose to shorten the Henry to Hank.

I was able to glean a little of this timeline prior to my meeting him from his Second son, Kevin who sent me this in a letter.

In 1967 my dad was about 21 years old.  He lived in Tehran, Iran and he enlisted in the Iranian Air Force.  He enrolled in Advance Medicine through the Air Force and was selected as a candidate to attend classes on western medical procedures organized between the United States and the Iranian Governments.  The location of these classes was at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, TX.  While there he met and dated a lady named Rose Brown for a short period of time.  NOTE:  This will become important in my story later.

Young Military Hank

Then he met my mom, Sherry Christine Summerlin at the Recreation Hall, fell in love, and within about 6 weeks they were married.

In 1968 he completed the program and returned to Iran.  However, his life plan had changed now that he was married.  He wanted to be released from the Iranian Military and returned to the U. S.

Upon finding out he had married an American woman and his desire to abandon his citizenship he was charged with Treason and sentenced to a life sentence in an Iranian Prison.

In 1969 by a miraculous set of circumstances he was removed secretly from the institution and given passage back to the U. S. to reunite with mom.

In 1970 Dad was working as a mortar transporter for a masonry crew when his first son Michael was born on December 20, 1970. 

In 1972 while he was delivering for the Coca-Cola Bottling Company in Wichita Falls, TX mom and dad had their second son, me, on April 24, 1972.

Then in 1974 while dad was working as a laborer for the Paul Sheuer Carrier Air Conditioning and Heat Company – the 3rd and final child, Michelle, was born on May 5, 1974.

In 1976 my dad climb the ranks in the Paul Sheuer Heating and A/C company to a lead tech position.  Later that year Mr. Sheuer died and his heirs opted to close the business.  Dad started his own company at that time.  The name of his business then was FASCO, Inc. which stood for Friedrich Air Conditioning Service Company. 

On April 10, 1979 a massive F4 tornado tore up much of Wichita Falls.  This created enough work to propel many into business and help my dad expand his.

We were like night and day …

Over the next few weeks Hank and I met many times for coffee and lunch and began to learn about each other’s beliefs and philosophies. We could not have been more different – yet we enjoyed each other’s company. Hank was more of a liberal than I was even back then. I was a young financial planner and he was a young business owner in the heating and air conditioning business. He was versed in all things mechanical and I certainly was not. Hank loved the outdoors … summer or winter … I loved the indoors. I like watching TV and movies – Hank loathed it. I hated news and current events … Hank was all over that stuff. I could not stand reading and much rather listen to music. Hank would rather read than to hear something on the radio or TV about what he was interested in. Hank loved to learn and at that age then … I thought I already knew everything there was to know.

I was 28 when I met Hank and he was 32. The one thing we really had in common was our work ethic and independence. I was an independent contractor for the investment firm that held my license … this made me self-employed. Hank started his business FASCO, Inc. because the Tornadoes of “Terrible Tuesday” provided an opportunity for him really increase his business.

A little about Hank’s background from what I remember …

A couple of months after we met, Hank and I were having lunch at a Dairy Queen Restaurant.  I asked Hank why he thought I may have a problem with Iranians.  He laughed and said, “I have a problem with some of them.”  Then he became more serious.

The story went something like this.  Hank did serve in the Iranian Air Force and was being trained (as a medic – something else we did not have in common since I was trained as a helicopter mechanic in the Army) at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX.  While stationed over here he met and married a girl named Sherry.  Apparently, in the Islamic faith that is not allowed … and as a member of the Iranian Air Force it was not allowed.  When he got back to Iran, he was sent to prison for a life term.  I have no idea how many years he actually served in prison … I can’t remember him ever telling me.  His son, Kevin, who I interviewed told me the story of his dad in prison.  Kevin said, “He was actually imprisoned for Treason because of marrying an American woman which called for the life sentence.”  I do remember Hank talking about some of the torture he received while in prison and how this torture helped him to learn to put pain out of his mind so it rarely bothered him when he was cut or hurt on the job.  He just continued to work.

Shah of IranHe did not think much of the Shaw of Iran at the time … nor did he like our government who supposedly put the Shaw of Iran in control.

Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, (born October 26, 1919, Tehrān, Iran—died July 27, 1980, Cairo, Egypt), shah of Iran from 1941 to 1979, who maintained a pro-Western foreign policy and fostered economic development in Iran.

Mohammad Reza traveled to Egypt, Morocco, The Bahamas, and Mexico before entering the United States on October 22, 1979, for medical treatment of lymphatic cancer. Before he passed away on July 27, 1980, he traveled to Panama and then Cairo, seeking asylum. He was finally granted asylum by Egypt’s president, Anwar Sadat.

Hank told me in September during this lunch that he thought something big was up with Iran since the Shah was ousted earlier that year in February by the new leader Ruhollah Khomeini known also as Ayatollah Khomeini by the western world.  According to my friend, our CIA allowed the Shah to take power … then allowed him to lose power.  Whether or not this is true, I have no idea … but I learned to believe most of what Hank had to say when it came to his country.  He did serve his time in prison in the same institution that Ayatollah Khomeini had been put into by the Shah of Iran.

Hank was right about something big happening soon in Iran?  He was an astute individual that would not only listen to the news but would do some individual research on topics he found of interest.  Back then for me the only news I would listen too is financial news and I could care less about the political stuff.  Hank never understood that about me.  I remember a discussion about his not being born here and voting; and my being born here, fighting in Vietnam and not voting.  Back then I was too upset to vote because it seemed at 18 years of age, I was old enough to die for our country but not old enough to vote for our Commander and Chief (the U. S. President).  I did change my opinion over the years that followed though.

Just a few months later (after Hank mentioning something big about to happen in Iran) fifty-two American diplomats and citizens were held hostage for 444 days from November 4, 1979, to January 20, 1981, after a group of Iranian college students belonging to the Muslim Student Followers of the Imam’s Line, who supported the Iranian Revolution, took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.  If you are too young to have experienced this time … you can study more about it here.

Even though the country was in turmoil during those 444 days and it seemed like all our attempts to free the hostages was failing – and even back then when people were starting to treat all Iranians the way they treat all Muslims today – Hank and I continued to have a stronger and stronger friendship bond between us and our families.

A family of fun …

This is a picture of Hank’s family shortly after we met them:

Khanlar Family

Hank and I continued to spend a lot of time together.  During the summer we’d go fishing (Hank always caught more than I did) and in the winter we’d go bird hunting (I never shot one and Hank would come home with 10-15 quail all the time).  Hank gave me my first shotgun.  It’s purpose was to kill snakes since I could not hit a bird with it.

I remember one day Hank called me from his automobile cell phone (yes he had one even back then), and it looked something like the photo below.

Early cell phone

He called and said, “Jerry there is a rattlesnake – a baby one – in my garage.  Could you go and kill it for my wife before she shoots it with a gun and puts a hole in my new garage floor.”

I asked, “Should I take the shotgun?”

He said, “Hell no … I just poured that concrete floor and would hate to have you put holes in it.  Just kill it with a shovel.”  I did ask him why he didn’t come home to kill it and he said he was too busy.  I was working at home that day so it should not be a problem for me.

Even though I was in a 3-piece suit and it was hot as hell that day, I went to his house and saw the snake.  I also saw a chair close to the snake.  I got on the chair with a shovel with the intent of cutting the snake in half.  I had no idea that the chair only had three legs on it.  Down I went almost on top of the snake.  Fortunately, I was much skinnier back then and could jump up quite fast.  The snake did not bite me and all while I was striking it with the shovel, Sherry, his wife was laughing like crazy.

I killed the snake, then called Hank, and told him, “That’s it … no more killing snakes for me with a shovel, buddy.”  When he found out what happened he thought it was the funniest thing he’d ever heard.  About 1 minute after we hung up he came driving up in the driveway with a big grin on his face. It was just like him to pull one like that on me.  He was headed home to take care of it all along.  My suit was a mess.  He offered to pay the dry-cleaning bill and I let him.

Both my wife and Hank’s wife did work full time.  Fortunately, they rarely worked the same hours and did not work at the same place.  This was good because it always allowed a mother to be around most of the time to care for the kids.  This picture below is one of Sherry and my two “goofy” boys.  This was probably taken sometime in 1984 or 1985 since Jeffrey, the youngest was not born until 1981 (about two years after we met).

Sherry Jeff and David

Sherry and Hank did love our kids … but Sherry thought Jeffrey was the best of all since she was there at his birth (which was about 7 weeks premature).

Hank and I both had boats at the time and it was nothing to pack the family up in the early days and head to Lake Arrowhead on a Saturday or Sunday for a little family picnic and swimming party.

Sherry was such a sweet person.  She and my wife got along like sisters.  I don’t think I ever recall a time that they had anything bad to say about each other.  Sherry was always there willing to lend a hand when she could.

Perhaps they got along as well as they did because Sherry had also married a foreign person.  My wife was upset with Hank a lot of the time because she felt that he did not respect Sherry as much as he should.  I remembering asking Hank about how he treated his wife and he wondered what I meant.  I reminded him that he seemed to disrespect her when he jumped on her publicly if he disagreed with something she did or said.

It was then that I got my first lesson about how Muslim women are treated in the middle east.  While much has changed since then, back then women were only half what a man was.  A man would inherit twice as much from the death of his elders as his sister would.  Women were supposed to stay home and raise kids and not work outside the home.  They were not allowed to attend college or any institution of higher learning.  They certainly would not be allowed to vote.

In other words, when you think about it, it was kind of like America a hundred and fifty years or so ago for married women.

I believe since Sherry did work outside the home and since Hank did encourage her to vote that much of this mindset for him was changing.  I reminded my wife that “Rome was not built in a day.”  Don’t get me wrong … my wife did like Hank … if she did not, I would never have become his partner later … but she just did not understand why Sherry allowed Hank to scold her publicly.

Real Estate Tycoons …

Hank had an Iranian Friend, Reza.  That is all I knew him by.  I never learned or pronounced his full name properly.  I can still hear Hank lecturing Reza about his inability to speak without an accent.

Hank used to say, “Damn it Reza, learn to imitate the Americans and talk like they do. They don’t say, ‘SEAT here.’ they say ‘SIT here.'”

Reza could not talk very well … but everything the man touched when it came to real estate turned to gold.  He probably had about 100 rental units when I first met him and was knocking down probably two times what Hank and I grossed (before expenses) on a monthly basis from these rental units.  He had started acquiring old rent houses about 5 years prior with only $50 to his name and was worth probably close to $2 million or more when I met him.  He was able to purchase a new BMW almost every year and pay for it.

Hank and I decided to enter into the real estate business and NI-KHAN Properties was born.  In case you have not figured it out … Ni-Khan stood for Nix-Khanlar.  Over the next three years Hank and I purchased 15 “dumps” with no money down.  Hank would fix them up and make them livable … he was the maintenance end of the company … and I would attempt to keep them rented and the bills paid … I was the operations end of the company.

I would work in my investment business during the day. On weekdays and in the evening, I would tend to the real estate.  However, back then many of my client appointments for investments were held in the evening due to my market being primarily people who worked during the day.  I would try to squeeze in showing houses for rent between appointments.  On the weekends I would try to help Hank with maintenance issues, but I did this mainly because I enjoyed being around him.  Between his business, my business the real estate and all the upkeep that was needed … we really started to put a strain on our families since we were not seeing much of them.

This little business venture of ours lasted about 6 years … from 1981 to about 1987.  Sometime in the mid period (around 1985 or 1986) I had difficulty collecting rent from one of our black tenants.  He simply refused to pay — even though he did work and I knew he had the money.  Hank and I both were starting to get pretty upset over his constant disregard for fulfilling his commitments and keeping his rent paid on time.

One Saturday Hank and I both called on this individual.  I remember he was 3 months behind on a $250 per month rental.  I basically ordered him to pay us $750 by the end of the day or move.  This is when I learned the real friendship I shared with Hank.

The tenant moved closer to me and pulled out of his pocket his “Saturday Night Special” a 25-caliber pistol.  He did not point it at me but he did order me to get out of “HIS HOUSE” if I knew what was good for me.  This is when Hank stepped between me and him and pulled out his pistol and told the tenant that he was more than willing to “go down that road” if that is what the tenant wanted.  I’ve always believed that people from other countries have never been as fearful of death as people from America are.

After some discussion Hank found out what the tenant really wanted was to move but simply did not have enough money for the security deposit and the first month’s rent at the new place he wanted to move to.  We found out the tenant needed another $250 to make it.

Hank said, “I’ll take you over there and give you the additional money you need to move if you move today.”

With that we were down $1,000 (three months of our rent plus the $250 we gave the individual to get rid of him) … but we were also rid of a deviant who we could not trust to uphold his end of a deal.  We passed the problem on to another landlord that was more capable to handle the situation (a large complex owned by a large corporation).  It was only weeks later that this person was killed in an incident involving a shoot-out with local law enforcement.

I learned that day the kind of friend Hank was.  He’d lay down his life for me if he had too.

Our friendship after that continued to grow even stronger.  We spent the next three years getting out of all the properties we’d purchased.  We sold them all (with the exception of 2) to tenants with no money down.  Naturally they had to borrow money from the bank.  There were even cases where we had to put a little money in a savings account in their names to get the deal done since the banks wanted a down payment from the buyer, but in those cases we simply raised our selling price by the amount we had to put in the bank.  There were other times where we would take a second mortgage for one or two years for the down payment when the lender would allow it.  You must remember … this was the mid to late 80’s so interest rates for mortgage loans were a lot higher back then than they are today.  Hank and I had mortgage rates as high as 14% and as low as about 8%.  That is high considering rates today of between 2% and 4%.

One of the properties we did not sell to a tenant was actually the best deal we had overall.  We had purchased a four-plex on a corner lot in Archer City.  This was on Center Street and I believe East Chestnut Street.  We paid $15,000 cash for this four-plex apartment unit.  We were able to obtain it so cheaply because it had been condemned and set vacant for several years.  We thought that for about $10,000 back then we would be able to bring the property back to building codes and lease the four unites for at least $300 per month bringing in a total of $1200 per month or $14,400 per year.  Not a bad return on a $25,000 investment.  It would pay for itself in a little less than two years and be pure profit from that point on.  This would be equivalent to a return of 57.60% cash flow initially.

Archer city

It did not work out that way … it worked out better.  Near the end of getting out of all our real estate I got a call from a realtor from New Mexico.  He had a buyer for our land and there were two deals on the table.  If we sold as is, the buyer would pay $30,000 (twice what we’d paid about 18 months earlier).  We had not begun construction on the site since we were getting out of the business.  The second deal was even better.  If we cleaned off the lot and sold land only with no buildings or debris, they would pay $65,000.  I took the deal to Hank and he said the latter was the best deal.  He could get his crew to demolish and haul off the debris over a weekend at very little cost to us.  I think the total with the rental of the bulldozer came to about $5,000.  We were able to profit $45,000 in about 18 months of ownership on this one.  Not a bad deal.

The other property had been destroyed by the tenants that lived in it prior to getting evicted.  This one was soon condemned by the city of Wichita Falls, TX.  The Savings and Loan we had the property financed at would loan us money to bring the property up to code and we were in negotiation to do so.  However, in the midst of the negotiation the Savings and Loan went belly-up and was taken over by “Resolution Trust.”

The Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC) was a U.S. government-owned asset management company run by Lewis William Seidman and charged with liquidating assets, primarily real estate-related assets such as mortgage loans, that had been assets of savings and loan associations (S&Ls) declared insolvent by the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) as a consequence of the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s. It also took over the insurance functions of the former Federal Home Loan Bank Board (FHLBB).

Between 1989 and mid-1995, the Resolution Trust Corporation closed or otherwise resolved 747 thrifts with total assets of $394 billion.  Its funding was provided by the Resolution Funding Corporation (REFCORP) which still exists to support the debt obligations it created for these functions.

Hank and I both determined that we were not going to worry about the foreclosure we were facing since the institution that had loaned us the money was not going to be around to collect it.  It was probably one of the dumbest decisions we made because it did tend to wreck our credit for a number of years.  However, we were smart enough to outsmart the government on this one.  We knew that once the collection was turned over to 3rd part credit collectors it would only stay as a bad mark on our credit for 7 years.  After that it would not show up on credit reports.  All we had to do was fight these guys telephone calls and letters for 7 years.  If the government would have kept the loans … we would have eventually been forced to pay them either through pay garnishments (which could not happen as long as we were self-employed) or through liens against our personal properties or tax returns.  But that is not the way it went down.

The Resolution Trust Company instead chose to sell these debts for pennies on the dollar to debt collectors who buy them in hopes that they can turn a profit on them.  Hank and I were of the opinion that we did not borrow money from the law firm that was trying to collect (the debt collectors) therefore we would not pay them any.  Debt collectors can only threaten – there is not much more that they can do.  Sure, they could take you to court … but between us we only owed $5,000 and this would not be worth their time and effort.  I personally can remember getting calls into the early 1990’s … then all of a sudden all the calls and letters stopped and the credit rating started to go back up.  All this time, our spouses had excellent credit.  So, if there was anything either of us needed credit for – and I don’t think there was – we would either use our spouses’ credit or our other business interest credit to make the purchase.

The Resolution Trust Corporation eventually became defunct.  In 1995, the Resolution Trust Corporation’s duties were transferred to the Savings Association Insurance Fund (SAIF) of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). In 2006, the SAIF and its sister fund for banks—the bank insurance fund (BIF)—also administered by the FDIC, were combined to form the Deposit Insurance Fund (DIF) under the provisions of the Federal Deposit Insurance Reform Act of 2005.

So why did we decide to exit the real estate business?

I think a portion of the rationale was the fact that a tenant pulled a gun on us, and another reason is it was simply taking too much of our time to keep our other business prosperous while trying to run a real estate rental business.  However, the largest part of it was government rules and regulations.  For example; it was almost impossible to legally evict a tenant if they knew how to play the game.  They could keep your case tied up in court for months all while they lived in and destroyed your property at no charge to them and very little chance of recouping any of the cost from them.  One of the things that Hank and I learned from one of the judges in Wichita Falls was that it was usually a lot better to simply take our front and back door of the dwelling off the hinges for repair and not return them until the people moved out on their own … but that always required repairing costly damage from very upset and angry tenants.

Another trick was simply to pay the security deposit and rent on a new place for the tenant and transfer the headache to another landlord … which did not do much for our reputation around others in the field.

The biggest thing was HURT feelings.  Let me explain to you:

In 1981 while my wife was lying in the hospital with our 3rd child in her womb … expecting to deliver prematurely any day … Hank and I learned that there was a few million in bond money that was going to be given at extremely low interest rates for real estate development in the Wichita Falls area.  This was the deal …

  • The business requesting the money MUST be a predominately minority owned business. If the business were a partnership, the majority of the partners must be minorities.
  • The property being developed MUST be for low income people that would qualify under Section 8 Housing by HUD.
  • Plans and proposals for the money MUST be into HUD in the Dallas Regional Office within 10 days of the notification.

In other words, there was not much time to act to get this 5% interest only loan.

Hank and I had developed a concept for a large apartment complex a couple of years earlier.  However, we had never had it actually drawn up and estimated by architects and engineers.  Fortunately, Hank knew an architect who was willing to draft some plans based on our dream, for a few thousand dollars.  I was good at writing and had a portable typewriter (lap tops were not yet available).  We worked diligently for the next 8 days in the hospital.  To make sure the business would qualify as a minority owned business I transferred 10% of my share into Hank’s name to give him 60% with my maintaining 40%.

We had a beautiful plan that was professionally bound.  Hank took the time to deliver it to the HUD office in Dallas Texas (about 150 miles or so from Wichita Falls).  He was told he would be contacted.  He was not even allowed to talk to anyone.  He could only drop off our package (plans and proposal).  We were asking for $3 million for our project.

Two to three months later we did get a letter addressed to NiKhan Properties in our P. O. Box from the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) office in Washington DC.  We met at one of our favorite restaurants, Western Sizzlin, for a celebratory lunch to review the letter.  Hank opened it and immediately I saw all the color go out of his face

We were rejected.  We had everything they wanted to loan the money to us with the exception of being MINORITY OWNED.  That’s right.  Hank, and Iranian Born American Citizen was not classified as a minority in our country.  Nor, as we later learned, was he classified as a Majority.

“If he was not a minority or a majority … just what the hell is he,” I asked our congressman.

“Mr. Nix,” said the congressman, “Since the Iranian Hostage Crisis the Federal Government has decided not to classify Iranian Nationals as either Minority or Majority.”

I argued, “He’s not an Iranian National.  He’s an American Citizen of Iranian descent.”  It did not matter though … my argument was falling on deaf ears.

I noticed a change in my friend that day.  He was not the loyal American I always thought of him as.  He never said this … but I felt he was really hurt by all this.

The Smartest Thinker I Knew …

After getting out of the real estate we owned, Hank and I closed the doors on NiKhan Properties and focused on running our individual businesses.  Sure, we still called each other for coffee and lunch from time to time.  We would discuss various investments – primarily stocks and mutual funds.

It was about this time that personal computers were starting to come to the marketplace for individuals.  I was in the investment business and got my first computer in 1985 … but it was strictly for company business and I was not allowed to put personal programs on it.  Hank, on the other hand, went to Radio Shack and purchased his own computer.  I remember laughing because mine had a hard drive and used floppy disks and his was one that used cassette tapes.  I remember telling Hank that I was told that 10 Mega Byte hard drive would hold more information than I could use in a lifetime.

He laughed and said, “you just wait, in a few years you will need that much memory just to fire a computer up.”  Boy, was he right!

Hank was always, it seemed, a few years ahead of his time in his thought processes.  I think it is because he studied physics and like to apply physics to almost everything he did.  I remember him telling me that there is no such thing as “cold” even though he was in the air conditioning business.  It seems there is the only the removal of “heat.”

In 2016 I saw a story on the news about a war veteran who was having two arm transplants performed.  It immediately brought my Friend, Hank, to mind.

We were sitting in a coffee shop having coffee one morning shortly after we met (before we went into real estate) and he had to run out to his car to answer his car phone.  Back then it looked like a Princess Telephone that many of us had in our houses and when it rang his car horn would actually start blowing.  It sounded like a person today hitting the alert button on their electronic Key Fobs today.  We were drinking coffee and the horn on his 1975 El Camino started to blow.

El Camino

Hank ran outside to answer it and I started watching the people in the coffee shop.  I noticed an older man with prosthetic right arm that had a hook for a hand.  This hook could open and close.  I noticed that he was holding a cup of coffee in that hook and a cigarette in his left hand.  He was pretty proficient with that prosthetic arm and hook to be able to drink coffee, set down the cup and pick up his paper and pen and start circling items in the paper with the hook that was holding the pen.

When Hank came back in, he too began to watch him.  He said, “You know as amazing as that is, it won’t be long – probably in our lifetimes – where medical science will be able to transplant human arms, hands and even faces and prosthetic devices will not be needed that much.”

I said, “Boy you are a dreamer!”  Little did I know …

Like I said, when I saw this story my first thought was of my friend, Hank.  He was so smart to realize this year’s in advance.  You can take a look at this story for yourself right here if you wish too.

Hank also told me more than once that he thought there was a cure to cancer and that cure was actually cancer of another form.  He developed this thought from watching oil men in west Texas fight fire with fire.  Take away the oxygen that a fire uses to burn with more fire and the fire will eventually burn itself out.  I wonder if he is right.  Is there a cancer out there that can be put into a person’s body that will cure the cancer killing the person without the new cancer killing the person?  Only time will tell.

The break up …

As we sold off our properties and started focusing on our own businesses … and after Hank and Sherry moved from the property on TX 79 to the little town of Scotland, TX on US 281 we started to move further and further apart socially.  This move occurred, according to his son in 1984 or 1985.  For some reason Hank was losing the home on Archer City Highway and his friend Reza stepped in like a “vulture on a fence” and bought out his mortgage and gave them an older home to live in in the town of Scotland.

At this time after selling our real estate Hank and I were not upset with each other … but were more into our businesses and what was going on in our two different worlds (his, the mechanical world, and mine, the professional world).  We would still meet occasionally for lunch or coffee or just to catch up … but we were not with each other constantly.

My company requested that I provide more support to our Fort Worth Office beginning in 1988 so I was travelling from home to Fort Worth on Monday Morning and coming back home on Friday Night.  Being gone all week I felt more obligated to family time on the weekends than to locating and hanging out with Hank.

He too, was starting to do some travelling from Wichita Falls to San Antonio.  I did not understand why until later.  He introduced me one day to a lady friend by the name of Rose.  He and Sherry were having some difficulties and Hank started seeing an old girlfriend that he knew before Sherry.  I told you about this person earlier in this story.  It was not long before Sherry and Hank got a divorce and Hank and Rose got married.

Here again, is some information from his Daughter, Michelle:

My mom and dad had a very strong marriage, I felt like.  I can remember my mom working very long hours and supporting my dad and getting his business up and running.  The two together were a dynamic team.  After moving to Scotland, I think that is when the stress started to play on my parents.

I don’t remember the exact logistics of the house but I know it was done through a partial trade or something and my mom was very upset.  She left the house on Archer City Highway and wanted nothing to do with the house in Scotland.  Although I think it was an opportunity my dad took advantage of and made it just as welcoming as our home on Archer City Highway.  We still had land and my dad was getting into training bird dogs.  We had plenty of farm animals that we all were responsible for taking care of.  To me it was some of the best years of my life. 

I somewhat hold myself responsible for my parents splitting up.  I was the one who took that call from Rose.  I never knew her and mom were arch enemies.  I never even knew my parents were getting a divorce until I had to go to the courthouse.

I eventually moved my family to Louisiana and lost all contact with Hank and his family.  There was one time – I still had some clients in Wichita Falls before transferring them to the advisor there – that I had to go back for a week. I did see Hank at a stop light next to me.  He did not see me.  I only got a glimpse of him.  I promised myself that I’d call him before leaving Wichita Falls and have dinner with him … that never happened.  That glimpse of him in 1992 was the last time I saw him.

Later, in 1995 I transferred to Jackson, Mississippi to take over that office as Field Vice President for the company.  I moved my family to Jackson in 1998.  I rarely thought of Hank … but when I did it was with a smile on my face.  He had a great impact on my life and I could never forget him.

Most of the rest of the story is from pieces I picked up from his youngest son, Kevin, in a phone interview and from his Daughter Michelle’s letter she sent to me.

First from Kevin in a phone interview:

Kevin was only 15 the first time he met Rose and that was in San Antonio, TX where she lived and where Hank was spending more and more weekends.  It seems that Hank and Sherry got a divorce sometime in the early 90’s or late 80’s.  Hank married Rose about one year after divorcing Sherry and eventually took over the family home.  Sherry and her daughter Michelle moved into an apartment in Wichita Falls and Hank lived in the house in Scotland, TX with Rose and one of her son’s.  I guess by this time Mike and Kevin were on their own. 

The marriage to Rose lasted about 4 years.  Kevin tells me that it was a peaceful split between Rose and Hank. 

About 5 or 6 years after Hank and Sherry split up … February 2, 1999, Sherry passed away unexpectedly.  Kevin told me that even though they were divorced … his mom would never move on like his dad did.  She was unemployed for health reasons and was taken care of by her three children.  I remember Sherry was one of the first people I’d known who had part of her stomach removed to fight chronic obesity.  She was overweight and this could have been one of the issues plaguing their marriage.  I remember it was the mid 80’s when she had this done.  I also remember that being one of the first … she always seemed to have stomach issues afterwards.  She did lose a lot of weight, fast, however.

At the time of her death, she was under “county care” and was having an “upper GI” performed at a local hospital.  She was allergic to the die that was normally used for this and the hospital failed to acknowledge this note in her charts and gave her the die anyhow.  It was this die that killed her according to Kevin. 

Kevin believes the death of his mom was the real undoing of his family.  Mike was dating a young lady that had some mental issues … Hank started seeing this girl, and apparently Mike did not mind because he really had no feelings for her.  The girl was bipolar and was taking Xanax. 

Apparently, Hank feeling guilty over the death of Sherry decided to try to end his life by taking an overdose of the Xanax that was available.  Michelle found her father, unconscious, and was able to get him medical assistance and he did not die.

Hank and GRanddaughter

Kevin, at this time, was in business with his dad (partners).  He had gone to work with his dad in 1997 after the birth of his first daughter, Kassie in 1995.  But then, it seems that Hank sold the business without discussing it with Kevin.  If fact he accused Kevin of being guilty of some things that perhaps he almost was guilty of (drug related) but at the time was not.  However, Kevin did start messing with drugs and within two years he was in prison.

One of Hank’s brothers came down from Wisconsin and took Hank to Wisconsin to care for him after his first attempt at Suicide.  In 2004 while Kevin was in prison, Hank had a stroke.  It seems Hank was out fishing by himself.  He did this often even when I knew him.  It was his quiet time … time to think about things.  He had a small stroke – realized what it was and drove himself to the hospital.  Quite frankly I am surprised he did this right away.  I remember once when he and one of his sons was duck hunting, his boat motor and a problem and while he was attempting to fix it (get weeds out of the propeller or something) he accidently put it in gear and cut his hand to the bone.  He simply wrapped the hand in a dirty towel and kept hunting.  Later that night he went to the doctor and got stitches.  Remember earlier I said he’d learned to put pain aside from the torture he received in the Iranian prison?  

A few days after getting out of the hospital with his minor stroke, he had a larger stroke that paralyzed him from the neck down, and he could not talk.  Kevin tells me that Hank would communicate with his brother with eye movements.

One day while in his brothers care Hank convinced the brother to take him to his apartment to clean it out.  He sent the brother to get the mail and while he was gone Hank got a shotgun and once again attempted to commit suicide.  The brother caught him trying to steady the gun under his chin and pull the trigger … but his paralytic condition would not allow it.

Kevin tells me that about five years before Hank died, he (Kevin) was released from Prison (in 2006) and went to see his dad to make amends.  He tells me that Hank weighed about 75 pounds and was restricted to a hospital bed and could not feed himself. His dad had saved Kevin’s truck and tools when he sold the business and gave them back to Kevin … which allowed Kevin to go into business for himself.  It was in July of 2006 when Kevin saw his dad … and it was in August 2006 that Kevin’s first daughter died in an accident.  Kevin tells me Hank cried when he got the news of his granddaughters’ death and Kevin is sad that he never really got to meet his other granddaughter from Kevin.

Hank passed away just one day before Kevin’s birthday in 2011 (that was on April 23, 2011 – which happened to by my oldest child’s birthday).  Kevin said his father would be okay with dying if it could wait until after two things happened.

  1. He wanted to see his kids getting along with each other again and close to each other, and
  2. He wanted to see Osama bin Laden taken out.

“To my knowledge,” said Kevin, “He never saw these two things happen.”

Here are some words from Michelle in a letter to me:

My teen years were not very blissful.  I had a lot of hatred for my dad for leaving my mom.  I was too young to understand and was just hurt because I felt he walked away from our family for Rose.  I became pregnant when I was 20 and my dad was devastated.  He swore me off and told me that he never wanted to talk to me again and that was the end of that … for awhile.

On May 14th I gave birth to the first grandchild of the family.  It was a girl and her name is Paige.  My dad’s heart melted when he first met her.  I literally saw a change in my dad that day.  As you mentioned early in your story, he wasn’t the best person when it came to women.  A lot of my growing up I was told I was not allowed to show skin, my upbringing was not like most girls.  However, all that disrespect went away the day Paige was born and he held her for the first time.  My dad was always a hard-working man that was focused more on business than family and the day Paige was born his life turned to focusing on his granddaughter.  Don’t get me wrong, he still worked, but he became a grandfather by the time she was three months old and would take her for overnights and weekend trips.

I also think that was the turning point for my mom and dad’s relationship.  Mom had gotten hurt at work and had to fight for social security.  She was indigent and lost everything she had worked 25 years for.  Even though my dad married and moved on, he stayed loyal to mom and helped her by getting her into senior housing.  He even purchased her another car when she lost one, she was trying hard to keep the payments up on.  At this time all three of us kids were working for dad – and he made mom a silent partner of the company so he could help her survive.  I think this made troubled waters for him and Rose because it was not too long after that when they got a divorce.

My dad did a lot of things for mom incognito, things he did not have to do since he was most certainly her ex for 10+ years.  That told us kids that no matter what happens to the other parents of your children, you treat them with dignity and respect.  It did not matter to him that she was his ex … it only mattered that she was our mom and now a grand mom.

My mom died on February 2, 1999.  One day before her death we had our normal lunch meeting for the office at my house.  My mom was there to watch my daughter and Kevin’s daughter Kassie while we worked for dad.  The company was thriving with four or five trucks on the road.  Dad was doing some pretty big government contracts all over Texas.  Life was great … until we lost mom.  She wrote in her diary that night of February 1st that it was the best day she had in a long time.  She missed days like this.  It was the first time in a long time that her and Hank were in the same room with all the children and grandchildren.  She mentioned in her diary that it was a moment that she felt she would never get again.  She died at 2:30 in the afternoon the following day.

After the death of my mom, everybody’s world seemed to fall apart.  Mike and Kevin went their own way.  I divorced my husband.  My dad and I bought some property together.  I shouldn’t say together as co-owned.  His idea was for me to live in the farmhouse and for him to live in a trailer on the land.  It was the only way he felt he could help me with my two girls, Paige and Carley.   I didn’t think my father did a very good job raising me when it came to affection and love – he was really hard on me. However, when it came to my girls – he was a wonderful grandpa.

I thought at that time of my life that everything was going to be okay.  My dad and I were building a relationship that was lost for so many years.  Then my whole world crashed again on February 2, 2000 (one year after mom’s death).   From the office I worked at I could see our house from my window.  I noticed my dad’s truck was at the house but it was not supposed to be there.  I left work to go check on him to see if he was okay.  That’s when I found him on the floor near dead.  There was a suicide letter on his desk that was about 12 pages long.  I did not read the letter … I was too focused on getting 911 on the phone and saving my dad.  To this day I cannot tell you what was in the letter.  The police confiscated the letter as evidence and never returned it.

Within a couple of weeks my Uncle came down form Milwaukee and insisted my father move back with him.  I had no choice but to let him go.  My girls and I moved to Canada and unfortunately began to lose touch with dad. 

In 2002 my dad and I reconnected.  He was working in Milwaukee for an air conditioning company and was on his way to doing well.  It was around 2004 when my dad decided he no longer needed to take his medication.  This resulted in dad having a stroke that paralyzed him.  I immediately came down from Alberta Canada and assisted my dad in getting into a nursing home.  He just never cam back after that.  I can remember riding with him in the ambulance to his new home.  He felt life was not worth living anymore.  My dad did not believe in Christ … but he told me in the ambulance he needed to find God and asked me to make sure to help him receive his place in heaven.  I told my dad I would pray for him. 

After about two weeks in the nursing home and because they were not monitoring him correctly he got backed up with fecal matter which caused him to have another stroke that paralyzed him from the neck down.

I left Canada and moved back to Texas.  I would travel back and forth from Texas to Wisconsin to see my dad every couple of months.  In 2009 I became ill.  At this time Kevin was living in Michigan, so I moved to be near him since I was told I would not live past five years without a lung transplant.  I was then able to see my dad every weekend and I did this until he passed in 2011.  Sometimes I would sleep in his room on the floor.  I felt so bad for him because he was a prisoner in his own body.  My father wanted me to put him in hospice – but because he had no power of attorney and his family did not look favorably on “assisted suicide” which they felt this was … they would not grant him his wishes.

My dad lived as a prisoner in his own body for seven years before he finally passed on.  It was horrible Uncle Jerry.  No man should be in their right mind and have no use of that mind, their mouth or their body.  I would pray that God would take him and ease his suffering.  We had to communicate through blinking.  My dad died knowing he had a great granddaughter coming.  He promised me he would hold on so he could meet her.  Sadly, he died in April and she was born in October.  I do know that before he died he told me he had accepted the Lord and I told him I would see him in Heaven some day.

My Closing Thoughts …

It seems that Mike is still in prison and Michelle has moved away to Michigan where she has been for some time (as you read above).  I am friends on Facebook with both Kevin (now back in Texas) and Michelle – and they both still call me Uncle Jerry as my kids called Hank and Sherry Uncle and Aunt.

Apparently, Hank did get back into some real estate after we parted ways since Kevin mentioned he has no idea what happened to his dad’s property in Wichita Falls after he had the stroke and left.

While they (Kevin and Michelle) was cleaning out their dad’s house they came across some letters that were written in the form of a diary to a person named “Jack.”  They never knew this person.  The letters though referred to Hank not accomplishing all that he thought he should during his life.  Kevin told me these letters went back a long time and he asked me if I knew who Jack was.  Of course, I did not know him.  I do know that some people have to have someone to write to in order to Journal their thoughts – I write to my grandchildren in my journals.  Some people simply write “Dear Diary.”  Being as masculine as he was … perhaps Hank wanted to write “Dear Jack.”

Target

Hank did have a philosophy about life.  To him life was like an archer and a target.  You are the archer and the target is your life.  If you fire that arrow and do not hit the bullseye … you simply did not live life to the best of your ability.

If you continue to fire and miss the bull’s eye you need to make some adjustments or you will end up being dissatisfied – and if you are dissatisfied there is no reason to keep on living.

As I look back on it today, I think Hank must have had some terrible bouts with depression.  I remember talking to him 35 years ago, or more, about depression and remember him telling me that he did not believe in depression.  He said, “If a person is depressed, they simply are not working hard enough.  They need to get busy doing something.”

I think now, “But, what if they can’t.”

This is my friend after his last stroke with his daughter Michelle and I presume two of his granddaughters.

Hank and Michelle

Hank Grinning

But this is the way I remember my friend.  Always with a smile on his face and willing to help anybody do anything.  He was always busy … but never too busy to lend a helping hand to a person in need.

He was simply happy in the early days.  I have no idea what happened to change all that.  I just know that looking back on it now I wish I would have attempted to stay in contact from time to time even after I left him.

As I said earlier, the last time I saw Hank it was only briefly at the light on the corner of Kell Blvd. and Barnett Rd. in Wichita Falls.  I was shocked when I heard of the death of Sherry, then of the strokes and ultimate death of Hank.  However, I am blessed that I still am able to communicate with his children from time to time.

There was and still is a lot of drama in this family.  More than I knew about when I was close to them and more than I really want to share here.  The purpose of this article was to share insights on a very good friend that would lay down his life for a friend without hesitation.  I regret that the children of Hank and Sherry Khanlar are not as close as they were when they were kids.  I understand that as we age, we tend to drift apart.  It has happened in my own family.  But I pray that they eventually find the love that their parents instilled in them when they were young.  I’m pretty sure that if we could ask both Sherry and Hank what they wanted to leave as a legacy … both would respond with “Love and Respect among our children and grandchildren.”

If you have really close friends, friends that will lay down their life for you, stay in touch … you never know when they will no longer be here for you.  Remember, it is not always blood that makes you family.

Continue to Live, Love and Prosper,

Jerry Nix | FreeWaveMaker, LLC

8 thoughts on “My Friend …

  1. Linda Young

    Oh my! I cried in a few places. I miss them both. I think they would have beat you to social media Daddy. Lol!.

    Few things I remember from my childhood.

    1. The “discussion” about your kid’s referring to him as Mr. Khanlar. He insisted we call him Hank. The compromise was Uncle Hank and Aunt Sherry.

    2. Aunt Sherry and the dogs! She had such love for her dogs. I think now about all these celebrities carrying the dogs and they do not know, my Aunt Sherry started that trend.

    3. Uncle Hank making fun of my accent. “Linda. Its Dad-dy. Not Diddy.”

    4. Aunt Sherry insisting mom go to the hospital while pregnant with Jeffrey. And she was right.

    5. The fact I went to the pond I wasn’t supposed to go to when you and mom were with Jeff. I only got caught because Michael skipped the boat oar that scarred Michelle under her eye.

    6. The demolition and then flip of the house in 8th street. I remember spending a few weekends there.

    7. But mainly, these 5 people, were as close as family. We could and still can rely on them.

    Kevin doesn’t live far and I will have to make more of an effort to meet with him and has childre to share the childhood stories.

    Anyway, great memories Daddy! Love you!

    Like

    1. Linda, thanks so much for reading AND COMMENTING. Sometimes I never know if my kids read or not … though they always leave a thumbs up or heart on Facebook when I post. I really appreciate your reading this and sorry if it made you cry. I did not mean too. There was a lot more Michelle and Kevin told me … but a lot of.it was why they could not get along, even though they are trying. They need a leader in their lives and do not have one. I could not put everything they told me in the story as it would have appeared to be more about them and Sherry and it was supposed to be about Hank … my friend. I’ve gotten a lot of good comments on this … but nen yours was most meaningful. I love you girl … daddy!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dave Lucier

    Good work my friend. I hope a large number of people read this. As we approach the end of our allotted time here it is good to remind ourselves of old friends we have drifted from. Thank you for doing this

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dave thanks so much for reading and for your kind words. I really appreciate when people leave comments. It let’s me know if I am going in the right direction or wrong direction with some of my stories. Even in was proud of this one. Just wished I’d told my friend what I thought of him.

      Like

  3. Edith Nix

    Many times we are caught just as you were an now you are wishing you could have been with Hank more. I am always thinking of these things. I loved this story and think you should have it put in Guidepost or a book that talks about things like this. It is a very good story to let people know that we are not always right in our thinking, but we do what we think is right then realize we
    could have done more. Jerry you have a great talent, keep writing and this alone will help your head to think right. Love you very much. MOM

    Like

    1. Mom, such a great comment. I do truly appreciate it. Don’t you worry …. I will continue to write as long as the good Lord allows me to. To me this is the only way I know to keep my mind fresh. I see what is happening to my sister and I surely don’t want it to happen to me. I believe if I keep exercising the old gray matter between my ears … like other muscles in the body – which I don’t exercise enough – it will treat me well.

      Like

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