Julius “Hank” Reinhardt

January 18, 1934 – October 30, 2007

My heart is broken.

My long-time freind and mentor, Hank Reinhardt, passed away on October 30, 2007, due to complications from heart surgery.

When I was sixteen, my father passed away, a victim of Multiple Sclerosis. My father was my best friend, and in the short time we had together, I learned so much from him. But I knew that there was so much more he could teach me, and I felt cheated. It wasn’t fair. I was just growing into manhood, and it was a crucial time; I needed my dad.

So I prayed to God, and said, ‘Lord, I need a father. Please bring someone into my life that can be a replacement for my dad.’ Now I know that no one can really replace one’s father, but God answered that prayer. Boy, did he answer it! Hank Reinhardt became my dad’s replacement.

I first contacted Hank, or Henry, as his friends called him, back in 1994, when I started Medieval Reproductions. We hit it off immediately, and I realized I had found a kindred spirit. I recall the first time I flew down to Atlanta to visit him. He had invited me down, and picked me up at the airport. As we were driving back to Conyers, I realized I might have a problem. I am extremely allergic to cats, and I had neglected to ask Hank if he had any pet cats. If he did, I would not be able to stay with him, and would have to take a hotel room. “I need to ask you a question,” I said to Hank. “Go ahead,” he replied. “Do you have any cats?” I asked.

Long, awkward silence.

Finally, Hank answered, hesitatingly, and said, “Um… sure... how much do you need?” Hank thought I was asking him for cash! “No! No!” I corrected, “Cats! You know, felines!” I would have given a million dollars to know what was going through his mind when I asked him that question! Anybody else probably would have turned the car around, and taken me right back to the airport! Not Hank, he was ready to give me whatever I needed. But that was Hank. He was generous to a fault. We laughed, and he told me that he didn’t have anything that required taking care of!

Hank and his wife Toni in Calgary, September 2003

When we got to his house, I was amazed. Everywhere, there were swords. Every corner, every closet, every nook, every cranny, was filled with swords. Even the laundry room had swords piled into it. And not just swords, but weapons of all kinds. They were on the walls, behind the couch, in the dining room buffet. And we hadn’t even gone down to the basement yet! I can recall that when I saw a sword or weapon that I liked, I would say, “Now that’s nice,” or “I really like that.” Every time I did, Hank would pick it up and hand it to me. “Here, it’s yours,” he would say. I would refuse, explaining that I was just commenting on it, that I didn’t want him to give it to me, but he would insist. It was a bit of a tug-of-war; sometimes he would win and I would graciously accept it, and sometimes I would win, and he would put it back. I very quickly learned to keep my mouth shut.

Every time I visited, Hank made me feel at home, and we developed a friendship like no other. You see, Hank wasn’t just a friend, he was a mentor. While my father simply tolerated my love for the medieval period, Hank embraced it and encouraged it. He also had a love for science fiction, a love that I had learned from my grandfather, who introduced me to the likes of Edgar Rice Burroughs and George Pal, among others. Hank was like my dad and my granddad rolled into one, and then some.

Me with Hank at one of his many "Costume Parties"

Hank had the uncanny ability to make anybody feel at ease. He loved conversation, and we used to talk for hours, oblivious to the passage of time. Hank could talk intelligently about anything, and the few disagreements we had (and they were few), he never demeaned my opinions or dismissed me, but graciously accepted that we didn’t see eye to eye.

Hank was also a great story teller, and had quite a wit. He could blindside you with a pun or “Hankism”, as I called them, and you had to be on your toes if you didn’t want to feel like a bit of a fool. Sometimes I would fire back, but I didn’t have the sharpness to keep up with him. And he sure had the ability to make you laugh. To Hank, life was for living, and joy was essential. I never saw him down, or really angry; he never had a negative word to say, except for those who deserved it. Hank was a positive guy, and anybody who was around him couldn’t help but feel positive themselves.

One of Hank's many cutting demonstrations

Hank was a scholar. He knew more about swords than anybody I’ve ever met. And not just academically, but in every way. He knew how to fight with them, he knew how they were made, he knew what they were called. He was one of the few people I’ve ever met who knew how to properly pronounce ‘Cinquedea.’ His knowledge of swords and the history of swords was vast, but he never considered himself a scholar. He called himself a student, because while he had forgotten more about swords than most people will ever know, and he recognized that there was always much more to learn. And unlike so many others who call themselves experts and think they know it all, Hank was willing to continue to learn; he never stopped learning. Like his knowledge of swords, his knowledge of history was formidable. I know for a fact that there aren’t many PHD’s who could have bested him intellectually, because his understanding went beyond the books; Hank could not only identify a weapon, but he knew how to use it, and there are many of us who have the bruises to confirm that he knew how to use his weapons very well indeed.

Hank was a ground breaker. He was getting swords made from manufacturers in Spain when everybody else was simply dreaming about it. He founded the S.C.A. in the south-eastern United States; in Atlanta, Birmingham, among others. He started Museum Replicas, and began providing reasonably priced swords before anybody else in North America. He founded HACA, and began the western martial arts movement in North America. The entire sword, re-enactment, and western martial arts movement owes Hank a tremendous debt of gratitude. No single person has had as much of an influence on this industry as Hank Reinhardt has.

Hank and I at Horseshoe Canyon, southern Alberta

The last time I saw Hank was in May of 2007. I spent a week with him. Hank always had people around him, because people liked being around him, but this time we were alone. We talked a lot, and began planning a new project that would have been groundbreaking in the western martial arts community. However, we didn’t do much activity, because his energy was low, and he was having trouble breathing. He suffered from emphysema, and always had difficulty with his breath, but this time it was especially bad. He would get winded just walking up a flight of stairs. This didn’t deter him, though; he was as positive as ever. I helped him build some new axe targets, and he spent the rest of the afternoon trying in vain to help me improve my axe-throwing technique. We shared some endearments that only friends share, and we parted, as we always did, with a big bear hug. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was the last time I would see him. I spoke to him on the telephone the day before he went into the hospital for his heart surgery, and he talked as if he was simply going to the corner store for a quart of milk. Positive as always. He asked about my daughter Justina, who had recently been diagnosed with cancer. He was concerned about her, and wanted to know how she was doing. That was Hank; always thinking of others before himself. Little did any of us know, that once he entered that hospital, he would never come back out.

Throughout our friendship, I called Hank every week to talk. He lived in the southern U.S., and I live in western Canada, so our time spent together was limited. I compensated by calling. At times, I wondered if he was annoyed at me calling him so much, but he always answered enthusiastically when he heard my voice, and gave me at least a half an hour to an hour on the phone before he would have to sign off. Now that he’s gone, I’m so glad I made those weekly telephone calls.

Hank giving a sword seminar in Calgary, September 2003

There’s so much more that I could say. Hank Reinhardt was my friend, and I was his friend. But we were more; we were wolf-brothers. There are very few who can make that declaration. He helped me in so many ways, including when I was struggling with Medieval Reproductions in the early days. He literally kept me in business. He has influenced me in ways no one else has. My life has been enriched for having known him, and it is diminished now that he is gone. Hank Reinhardt was not one in a million; he was one in six billion.

And I will miss him.

Peter Fuller

November 2007

Hank Reinhardt

Hank is gone. I have to keep telling myself that because I can still hardly believe it. I know that it’s true. I was there at his funeral, but Hank was always so full of life. I expected him to outlive me, I expected him to out live everyone. Hank was a lot of things to a lot of people, but to me, he was just Hank, always ready with a pun or joke. You see I knew Hank better than most…I saw him on an almost a daily basis for 14 plus years. We worked together at MRL and we did a lot of fencing (he would have said “fighting”) both with sword and dagger and words. And believe me he was a hard man to best at either! Even after he was no longer at MRL we always talked once a week or more and got together whenever we could with his busy schedule. Most of all...Hanks was my friend and I will miss him more than I can ever say.

Bruce A. Brookhart

Hank, Bruce Brookhart, and me at Museum Replicas, 1995

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