It seems everyone who knew Harry Esbenshade has at least one favorite story to tell about him. I have two.
The first is from an early encounter. Harry was on NRCA's board of directors, which at the time was debating whether to charge an additional $50 for an educational conference. (Leave aside, for a moment, the fact boards shouldn't have these kinds of debates.) After an unnecessarily long and involved discussion, Harry rose and said: "Do I understand we are having a debate about $50? I wouldn't walk across the street for $50." End of debate.
The second happened later. Harry was at a bar asking his fellow contractors lots of direct questions about their businesses: How much money did they make the previous year? How much were they paying for insurance? How much were they paying their best foremen? Finally, one contractor said: "OK, Harry, it's your turn. Tell us how much you made last year." And he replied: "Oh, we have a company policy that won't let me discuss those things."
The stories give us a little bit of a glimpse into the man. He was smart, direct and had a wicked sense of humor. Because of that, the first impressions he left with others weren't always great. But those who took the time to know him understood his was a much more complicated persona.