Zarrow Family Finds Success by Helping Others

Associate Editor

HELPING OTHERS: The Salvation Army’s Captain Sheila New and Major Dan New flank Henry Zarrow, who was the honorary chairman of this year’s Salvation Army benefit dinner held April 18. The Zarrow family has a long tradition of helping others in greater Tulsa.

Editor’s Note: This article is the sixth in a centennial year-long series saluting families who were in Oklahoma about the time of statehood and have since contributed to the state and Tulsa’s well-being.

Sometime in 1929, as the story goes, a young lad entered the lobby of the luxurious Tulsa Hotel in search of a bank loan officer by the name of Roscoe Adams with the First National Bank & Trust. The young lad’s name was Henry Zarrow and he was in search of a loan of $300 dollars to pay off all his debts and continue his grocery business. Zarrow knew Adams would be there that evening because it was the place in town where business and civic leaders and gentlemen of means gathered to talk business and hobnob. Sometimes hotel guests would take up temporary residency there while waiting their residential dwellings to be completed. It was where many big deals were born in early day Tulsa.

Zarrow approached Adams who was seated with another gentleman and made his request, to which the banker replied he was not about to give such a large loan to a 13-year-old boy. Before Zarrow could further plead his case, the gentleman seated with Adams interceded and admonished the banker for refusing the lad’s request and asked the question, “How was the boy suppose to get ahead?” The intervener that evening, as Zarrow later learned, was none other than J. Paul Getty. Little wonder the loan was approved and it in turn opened a new chapter in the story of one of Tulsa’s premier families.

Back in 1909 at the age of 16, Henry Zarrow’s father, Sam, came to America. He fled his hometown of Latvia, Russia by smuggling his way onto a train leaving the country disguised as a girl. It was a bad time for Jews in Russia who were forced by the Czars to live in certain designated areas of the country in communities called Shetls. It was the era of the Pogroms, known for perpetrating violence against Jews.

Once out of Russia, Sam Zarrow boarded a ship bound for America. When he arrived in the United States, Immigration officials asked him his birthday. He inquired as to the date America got its independence and July 4th became his new birthday. Shortly thereafter Rose, Sam’s wife-to-be, joined him. They married and made their way to Tulsa.

Henry began working in the family store at the ripe old age of six. With the previously mentioned bank loan, he opened a grocery store in Crystal City and divided his time between full-time schooling during the day and grocery store management in the early morning and after school. Even at that early age Mr. Henry, as he would later become affectionately known, showed his insistence on success through persistence and perseverance.

Knowing full well the demanding nature of the grocery store business, Sam and Rose wanted their son to pursue other career options. It was cousin, Abe Mizel, who provided young Mr. Henry with an opportunity to learn the pipe business. In Tulsa’s emerging energy based economy, pipe was in demand. The opportunity potential was considerably more than that afforded from selling groceries and it didn’t take long for him to learn that there was much money to be made buying and selling used pipe.

After short stints at the University of Oklahoma and the University of Tulsa, Mr. Henry turned his total attention to building his pipe supply business along with brother Jack and father Sam. In 1938 Sooner Pipe and Iron, later renamed Sooner Pipe and Supply opened its doors. In the ensuing years the company would build its reputation and success on the proposition that superior quality products and service will carry the day even if it meant higher prices. The company’s products became the standard for quality and reliability in the industries they supplied.

The Zarrow family’s business accomplishments would be just one more Tulsa entrepreneurial success story were it not for the family’s extraordinary philanthropic contributions to the city. The focus of that philanthropy has been guided by embracing the teachings of Maimonides, a Jewish Rabbi, physician and philosopher, who defines the obligation of tzedakah or “righteous behavior” as steps on a ladder at the top of which is, “to give in such a way as to prevent poverty.” It is to this highest level of social justice the Zarrow family strives.

Countless Tulsans whose life circumstances place them at a disadvantage have had their lives changed for the better with help from many non-profit organizations supported by The Anne & Henry Zarrow Foundation, Maxine & Jack Zarrow Foundation and the Zarrow Families Foundation. It is impossible to measure the positive economic and social impact these family foundations have had on the overall well being of the community, but it is easy to conclude that without the Zarrows, Tulsa and the surrounding community’s overall quality of life would be diminished.

On the Ann & Henry Zarrow Foundation Web site is posted a quote by Danny Thomas that says, “Success has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself. Success is what you do for others.” With that as a criterion, The Zarrow family is an unequivocal success.

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Updated 05-04-2007

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