Danis, longtime town manager, dies.
WESTBORO - The town's long-serving former town coordinator - a dapper man known for his penchant for three-piece suits strung with a gold pocket watch, a rapier wit and straight-talking style - died suddenly at his home on Cape Cod Sunday. He was 70.
Henry L. Danis Jr., who served as town coordinator from 1994 until his retirement as town manager in 2009, was remembered yesterday for his devotion to the town and his love for his family. Mr. Danis' job title changed in 2008 when the town changed its charter.
When Mr. Danis retired three years ago, he told a reporter he wanted to be remembered as someone who did his work professionally and with a sense of humor.
And that was, indeed, how he was remembered yesterday.
"It's hard to think of Henry not being around with the amount of energy he had," said Lydia Goldblatt, a former selectman who worked with Mr. Danis for several years. "He just has this zest for life."
In fact, he attended the selectmen's meeting last week and visited with the officials, talking, joking, and catching up.
"This is just such a shocker," Selectman Denny Drewry said, upon hearing the news of Mr. Danis' death. "We were together Tuesday night, grabbed a bite to eat and had a great time. We talked about the Cape and his family. It was great to see him and catch up."
When Mr. Danis retired, he maintained a home in Westboro, as well as one in South Yarmouth.
Mr. Drewry, who was re-elected to the Board of Selectmen last year after a few years' absence, was chairman of the board when Mr. Danis was hired.
"Henry was a character," Mr. Drewry said, recalling Mr. Danis' sense of humor, his straight-talking nature and his sense of fashion. "Henry needed a U-haul trailer to keep all his clothes from 40, 50 years ago. He was Mr. Dapper."
Mr. Danis was an experienced leader in municipal government and first served as town administrator in Leicester before arriving inWestboro. He was remembered for his financial savvy and talent in negotiating with town unions.
"Henry was someone who was always willing to engage with anybody. He was always well-prepared and it wasn't too often that you didn't get his opinion," Mr. Drewry said. "My heart goes out to his family."
Selectman George Barrette served on the board from 2001 to 2007 and before that served on the Finance Committee, working closely with Mr. Danis, whom he called a mentor.
"I was his boss as a selectman. He never forgot that, but sometimes I did," Mr. Barrette said. "He was like a mentor to me. Sure, he could be loud and abrasive, but underneath it all, he had a heart of gold and adored his wife and family."
Beyond the bluster, which some interpreted as rudeness, he said, Mr. Danis was a man who cared about those he spoke to and was a consummate professional.
"He was the kind of guy who cared. He was in a position where you have 14,000 people to report to and five bosses that change every year. It takes a special personality to be a town official anywhere, and he was amazing at it," Mr. Barrette said.
Ms. Goldblatt served with Mr. Danis for nine years and said he was the type of man who got to know people - "the person behind the person," not just their names, but about who they are, where they lived, where they came from.
"You might have met Henry as a stranger, but you always left as a friend," Ms. Goldblatt said.
Though they didn't always see eye-to-eye, Ms. Goldblatt said, it was a pleasure to work with Mr. Danis.
"Henry was always well-informed, and he always tried to do what was best for Westboro," Ms. Goldblatt said. "He loved his family, and he loved the town of Westboro."
As Mr. Danis prepared to retire after more than 40 years of work, he said the most important lesson he had learned was: "Take your work seriously, but never take yourself too seriously."
CUTLINE: Mr. Danis