May 29, 2020Warren Henninger remembered for kindness, generosity
“God, family, and potatoes.”
That is how Warren Henninger’s passions are listed in his obituary. Henninger, a lifelong and very popular member of the potato industry, died May 23, eight days after suffering a fall at his Moses Lake, Washington home while doing yard work. He was 74.
During the first half of his professional career, Henninger was a farmer, county agent, processing researcher and field manager. In 1997, he started Ag World Support Systems to act as a third-party inspection service for processing companies, and worked with some of the biggest in the industry, including Lamb Weston, McCain and Simplot.
Chris Voigt, longtime head of the Washington State Potato Commission, joined the industry about the time Henninger started Ag World. Voigt described Henninger as “the type of human being that we should all aspire to be.”
“Warren was one of the kindest people I’ve ever met,” Voigt said. “He was just so warm, giving, thoughtful and genuine. … He touched a lot of people. He was generous; he gave his time, energy and money to so many others.”
Henninger was born Aug. 4, 1945, in Allentown, Pennsylvania to potato farmers Harold and Jeanette Henninger. He was active in Future Farmers of America as a youth and eventually studied agronomy at Penn State University. Following his undergrad work, Henninger migrated to the Pacific Northwest as a grad student at Oregon State University. He would spend the rest of his life in the region.
While at OSU, Henninger met his future wife, Judy, whom he married in 1970. The couple had three children: Bryan, Craig and Melanie.
Henninger worked as a county agent before joining the processing industry as a field manager for Simplot and later Carnation, which eventually was acquired by Simplot. One of his proudest work-related accomplishments was taking the first seed potatoes to China for McDonald’s french fries.
After starting Ag World, Henninger grew it into an international company. It served processors’ inspection needs not only in the Pacific Northwest, but Canada, Maine, Wisconsin and North Dakota.
As noted, Henninger was known for his generosity. One of his biggest charitable endeavors was starting the Ag World Golf Classic in 2014. The event serves as a fundraiser for Ronald McDonald House Charities. To date, it has donated more than $425,000 to Ronald McDonald House.
He also was very involved at Lakeview Missionary Church, where he served and worshiped for 42 years. Additionally, Warren and Judy ministered at a care facility on Sunday mornings for the past 15 years.
Henninger is described as a devoted husband and father by his family. He leaves behind Judy, his wife of 49 years, children Bryan — who heads Ag World as president and CEO — Craig, and Melanie, who is an executive at Ag World, and nine grandchildren, including two sets of twins.
“Warren was an honorable man who loved his Lord and his family. He was kind and often had a twinkle in his eye as he’d elbow you softly while stealing your french fries,” his obituary read.
Others shared thoughts of Henninger via Spudman social media pages.
“He was always a pleasure to be around, positive outlook on life and the industry,” wrote Steve Elfering, operations manager at 1,4GROUP.
“Warren inspired us to keep our imagination going and give to others constantly,” said Randy Taylor of Basin Pacific Insurance and Benefits.
“I always enjoyed visiting with Warren at the trade shows,” wrote Chris Jevne of Walmart Stores.
An outdoor celebration of life service for Henninger is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. PDT June 6. Fittingly, it will be held near potato storage sheds. The event is scheduled to take place near Warden, Washington at the corner of Leslie and Howard roads. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own chairs. It will be streamed live on YouTube.
A memorial fund has been established on Henninger’s behalf for Ronald McDonald House Charities Inland Northwest. Donations can be made here.
— By Zeke Jennings, managing editor