Mackey Barron’s death last week at age 95, although not unexpected after his health faltered following spinal surgery about five years ago, was an event that generated hundreds of emails, texts and phone calls to his son Dana, who has been CEO of HB Communications, the company his father started almost 70 years ago.
Dana Barron used many of those sentiments in the eulogy he delivered on his father’s behalf Sunday and closed that speech with a poem he wrote in honor of his dad, who was as prolific with his poetry as he was with his jokes and his deal-making.
“He was one of a kind,” says Dana Barron. “He had a lot of passion for everything he did. He loved people and he loved his work. He was a good listener and a good communicator and when you do both of those things well, you’re going to close a lot of deals and make a lot of people happy.”
Although Mackey Barron’s role with the company he started as HB Motion Picture Service in 1946 lessened in recent years, he was pleased to see HB Communications cross the $100 million threshold a few years ago, but Dana said he’d wanted to live to be 100. Despite not reaching that goal, Mackey Barron packed a full life into his 95 years.
HB’s website says Mackey’s “primary vision, to provide audiovisual solutions to educational and corporate organizations, has successfully survived the last half-century of AV technological advancements.”
“He was in constant motion,” says Dana Barron. “He was always fixing something. Even when the family got together and went to the beach, he was always doing something. He didn’t want to stop and relax.”
That approach is probably part of what helped HB Communications grow into the industry powerhouse it’s become over almost seven decades.
“I challenged a lot of what he was doing when I took over the company, but he was the consummate salesman,” says Dana Barron. “He always talked about doing whatever it takes to take care of people. Sometimes, that got us in trouble, but people appreciate that and that’s what was important to him.”
Mackey Barron “treated his employees like family,” says his son, and that was reflected in the fact many of them spent most or all of their careers with HB Communications. Although HB has some newer and younger employees in the office who aren’t as familiar with Mackey’s prowess and his place in the industry, “there are enough people here who’ve been around for a while who can tell Mackey stories.”
Telling stories—and sometimes off-color jokes—was a prominent part of Mackey Barron’s legacy, his son says, noting he always pulled out his joke book when he called someone about making a deal.
“I used to ask him why we represented so many brands,” says Dana Barron. “He told me it was because he didn’t ever want to have to tell anyone we didn’t carry what they needed, because they’d go to someone else.”
That philosophy helped to create HB Communications’ six-pillar approach, which includes a focus on live events, the broadcast vertical market, traditional AV integration, digital media, unified communications and managed services.
InfoComm International executive director and CEO David Labuskes wrote a touching tribute to Mackey Barron last week.
“He was truly was one of the early pioneers without whom the industry would not be what it is today,” wrote Labuskes. “His hard work, selflessness and vision helped turn HB Motion Picture Service into a full-service AV integration, communications and events firm. The evolution of HB Communications is a model for successful AV integration companies.”
Among the charities Mackey Barron designated as one to which friends and family should donate in his memory is InfoComm’s International Communications Industries Foundation (ICIF) grant program.
“He was always encouraging people to get into the industry,” says Dana Barron. He downplayed the idea that having Mackey’s endorsement of the ICIF program would be the linchpin to making it more successful in its second year after generating limited interest in 2015.
Dana Barron shared the poem he wrote in his father’s voice to close out his eulogy:
Thank you all for coming to see me off today.
I have led a long and fruitful life, I must say.
I always had high expectations for myself, my family, my teams.
I didn’t know any other way for us to realize our dreams.
I was always up early, at the office at first light,
Calling my sales team to see if they were winning the fight.
I certainly had my funny habits, my shortcomings, and my quirks.
At the end of the day my goal was to make sure everything works.
I was a clean freak, yes, and attention to detail was always paid.
For Christ’s sake, I would even clean up after the maid!
While I didn’t see the need to scrutinize the HB inventory,
The fact that I knew exactly how many spoons were in the drawer is an interesting story.
I was the most aggressive driver and there was no one I couldn’t pass.
Just couldn’t handle those people who drove with their heads up their ass.
In light of my quirks, I believe my heart was in the right place.
I wanted to make people comfortable around me, put a smile on their face.
My jokes were a big part of my success in this business.
Some were inappropriate, so I begged your forgiveness.
They say I was a war hero, B17s and B24s I flew.
Got shot down, spent a year as a POW…who knew?
I wrecked 3 American planes. Not many can claim that pace.
Did you know that technically makes me a German ace?
I hope that I have left something of value with all of you.
And I expect you will use it to change something…try something new.
So I will close now because it is time for me to go.
Please remember me always and how I loved you so.