December 23 1931 – October 17 2021
Henry Holtz was born in Izmeny Hungary, child of Anna (Schwartz) and Franz Holtz, on December 23 1931. He had an older half-brother by Anna’s previous marriage, Daniel Holler. At the conclusion of World War II the family escaped from Soviet-controlled Hungary to West Germany, where Henry found employment as an apprentice machinist in a metal salvage plant in which his father, an expert blacksmith and German army conscript, had worked during the war. The two worked there until production began to fall off. Faced with no work, Henry was helped by his mother’s sister, who had emigrated to Canada before the war. The Schwartz family sponsored Henry’s immigration to Canada in 1951. He lived in Montreal where he learned carpentry, first building frames for upholstered furniture, then graduating to finer work as his skills progressed. Soon he was making a good enough living that he was able to sponsor his parents to come to Canada as well.
He married Dorothy Ann Benjafield in 1957 and their son, Allan Henry, was born in 1964.
Henry and Dorothy tried going into several businesses, including forming a furniture company (Olympia Furniture) and operating a service station, but these ventures failed. They bought their first house in the mid-1960s, a bargain that needed a tremendous amount of work. Henry and Dorothy did all of the work on the house themselves, learning as they went. When the house was done they realized that it was worth considerably more than the price paid and cost of renovations. Although Henry kept a day job as a carpenter at McGill University through the 1970s, buying and rehabilitating houses became the couple’s night and weekend pursuit, earning them a substantial nest-egg at the expense of working long hours and seven days a week. More than a half-dozen neglected houses around the South Shore of Montreal were expertly and finely rehabbed by the couple in the 1970s while both continued to work full-time jobs.
Faced with political turmoil and a bad real estate market in Quebec, the couple emigrated to the U.S. in 1979. They purchased a dilapidated 32-unit motel in Orlando, Florida and proceeded to renovate the entire complex in only two years. After selling the motel for a substantial profit, they purchased an apartment complex and went through the same process.
Tiring of being landlords as well as renovators, they then scaled back to renovating houses. From the 1980s to 2000s they rehabilitated dozens of houses with almost no outside help. In the process they learned that they could also profit from holding private mortgages on the houses when they sold them. As the real estate market imploded in the late 2000s and their advancing ages made the manual work tougher, mortgage lending became their main business.
Dorothy contracted cancer and died in 2014 at the age of 76, leaving Henry aimless and without the partner who, amongst many other things, had administered the mortgage paperwork. The mortgage business was thereafter administered by his son, who had moved to Nova Scotia, Canada, but who made frequent trips to Florida to assist him and see to his growing health care needs.
Henry’s failing health soon caused him to move into an assisted living facility in Florida, but further deterioration made it necessary to move him to an assisted living facility in Kentville, Nova Scotia where his son could better care for him.
Henry Holtz died peacefully on October 17 2021 at age 89 due to complications from metastatic prostate cancer. He is survived by his son, Allan, and his daughter-in-law, Medea. His remains will be taken to Florida where he will be reunited with his wife Dorothy at Glen Haven Memorial Cemetery in Winter Park, Florida.
The family would like to thank the staff at his assisted-living residence, Kings Riverside Court in Kentville, for all their kindnesses in caring for him for the past three years.
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