St. Luke’s Stories, a series of articles about members of our Parish, is a way for members and the greater community to get to know St. Luke’s better, and to reveal deeper insight into our friends and neighbors.
Henry Zaborniak, Jr.
Be the best that you can be
Smiling and outgoing, Henry Zaborniak is the picture of a man who has the world on a string—and you would be right—but peer a bit more closely at that string and you’ll understand that it’s built of more than accomplishments. It’s woven of tenacity, humor, and a genuine interest in his fellow man.
Henry was born in Lima, Ohio, to a hardworking couple, Henry and Oletha. Henry Sr. was a school administrator who moved his young family with him from job to job. Perhaps that’s where Henry began to develop his warm and inviting disposition.
“I remember finding the moves exciting – looking for houses, meeting new people and making new friends,” says Henry. “But my (two) brothers weren’t too happy about it. And now as an adult I realize how hard it must have been on my mom.”
Henry would try just about anything – he participated in football, basketball, track and field, and he also tried his hand at theatrical and musical productions. “My folks expected us to try all kinds of stuff and give it our best shot. I learned one thing early on – if you start something you finish it. You don’t quit.”
After putting himself through school and earning a bachelor’s in psychology from Ohio Northern and a master’s in rehabilitation counseling from Bowling Green, Henry and his first wife Robbin married and had three children, Matt, Todd and Alexis, before divorcing in 1997. He and Kim married in 2000. As Henry says, “We don’t have children together, just canines!”
His life as a youngster moving from town to town may have prepared him for a peripatetic life of his own. In Henry’s first job, he was assigned to three county high schools to help guidance counselors work with kids who wanted to leave school and get into the work force. From there he became an adult probation officer with the Wood County Common Pleas Court. Henry worked with adult felons of all stripes (pun intended!) and he built relationships with his clients as well as with judges, attorneys and law enforcement professionals. He intended for this to be his career, but one fateful day the phone rang with an unexpected offer.
“In 1985 I received a call from a counselor with whom I had worked at Eastwood High School. They were in need of someone to fill a roll that would be a first for them – they had some issues with their athletic program and with transportation and they needed a district wide attendance (truant) officer.” It quickly became apparent that Henry was just the ticket.
“Great people, great job – wow did I learn a lot,” says Henry. And it was while he was with Eastwood as athletic director that Henry became even more active in professional organizations, very notably the athletic director association. This ultimately led to Henry’s position as assistant commissioner for the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) where his skills and talents were put to the test.
He was with OHSAA for more than 12 years. Henry’s psychology degree came in handy as he worked with school administrators, coaches, sports officials, and tournament managers for 840 public and private high schools. Among some of his accomplishments: Henry tripled the number of minority officials and doubled the number of female officials selected for post-season tournament assignments through development of a competence-based process; he developed curriculum and training sessions for thousands of people including student athletes; and he chaired or served significant roles on several national committees including NASO Board of Directors, NFHS Publications, NFHS Basketball Rules, NFHS Football Rules and NFHS Officials Education.
Henry’s lifetime of good work was recognized when he was inducted into the OHSAA Officials Hall of Fame in 2007, both the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame and the Ohio Wrestling Officials Hall of Fame in 2011, and the Ohio Wrestling Coaches Hall of Fame in 2013. Henry was named the 2000 NFHS National Distinguished Contributor, and in 2013, he was honored with the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association Lifetime Achievement Award.
Henry left OSHAA in 2012 and now, along with Kim, owns and operates a residential and light commercial repaint business called ProTect Painters. “Basically because I saw an opportunity to help people protect and beautify their biggest investment and asset – their home. So, we’ve been in business for 17 months. Wow – what I’ve learned and what great people I have met!”
But – as impressive as this is – we’re not finished.
While Henry played football at Ohio Northern during his freshman year, he had decided that would be his final year as a player. He continued to act on his love of football as an official his college sophomore year.
“I loved it. It was athletic, it was mentally and physically stimulating, and I met great people.
Starting off in junior and high schools, by 1985 Henry was officiating at the collegiate level and in 1990 he graduated to the Mid American Conference as a football official. (Henry officiated for basketball too, but eventually dropped that role due to family and job constraints.)
“I officiated Big 10 football from 1996-2011, when I decided to retire from officiating,” says Henry, who also officiated for two seasons in NFL Europe. Henry’s officiating career culminated with the NFL when he worked as a replacement official during the early part of the 2012 NFL season.
Now Henry spends his time watching his boys referee, hanging out with Alexis when she’s around, helping Kim with Airedale and Wire Fox terrier rescue, and, of course in his business. He loves reading non-fiction, especially biographies and historical books.
When asked to talk about a spiritual cornerstone, Henry says, “We can choose to not be afraid.” He adds, “It’s easy to say, but life can make cowards of any of us – death, divorce, job loss, rejection, illness, injury – I mean life is tough! Don’t be afraid? The Christian faith is not for sissies! At the core is a battered and bloody cross.”
“Keep in mind that God loves us. Keep in mind that failure is inherent in life. Keep in mind that if we ask we will get help – from our friends? Family? Neighbors? – you know God who lives with and among us.”
“I believe that we are called to do our best in whatever we do, in who we are. Our best is a welcome gift, but when we fail, when we don’t give it our best shot, when we are less than we can be – in anything – it’s okay. We get a do-over every day because when we set our heart on Christ (believe) and the power he exerted over death – well, we don’t have to be afraid of anything!”