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Remembrance: Henry Gonner

1913 - 2004

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"He was a combination of P.T. Barnum and Harold Hill," says Carlton P. Moffatt Jr., former chairman of the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce. He worked with Gonner for several years when he was president of the Central Richmond Association.

Gonner could be seen regularly driving about town in his Ford Model T, smiling and waving.

"I think Henry was in practically every parade I ever saw," recalls former Gov. Gerald L. Baliles. He saw Gonner often throughout his political career, which spanned from the mid-1970s to 1990. In those days, Baliles says, while he was at the center of Virginia politics, Gonner was at the center of the city. "I called him the goodwill ambassador for the city," Baliles says.

Gonner had a deep knowledge of Richmond and its history. He was optimistic, almost to a fault. "I told him once Hubert Humphrey could learn something from Henry Gonner," Baliles recalls, about the former U.S. senator and vice president. Humphrey was called the "Happy Warrior." Gonner modestly agreed.

But perhaps most of all, Gonner will be remembered for his marketing prowess for the city. All polish. Incomparable. Says Baliles, "He was to marketing the city what Robert Preston was to 'The Music Man.'" — Brandon Walters

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