In Memoriam: Henry Wollman Bloch, 96, patron of the arts

Henry Wollman Bloch. Image courtesy of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Henry Wollman Bloch, 96, died April 23 in Kansas City. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in a news release stated the institution was honored to be among the many organizations and civic efforts that benefited from Mr. Bloch’s philanthropic leadership.

His obituary in the Kansas City Star newspaper stated that Henry Bloch achieved the American Dream by pioneering an industry and then went on to become an extraordinary humanitarian. He founded the Business Council at the Nelson-Atkins in 1985.

“This is an enormous loss to the community and to the Nelson-Atkins,” said Richard C. Green, Chair of the museum’s Board of Trustees. “Henry Bloch had an unfailing vision and enthusiasm that was borne of genuine gratitude. The Nelson-Atkins was truly fortunate to benefit from Henry’s leadership, guidance and passion for the arts.”

The second of three sons of Hortense and Leon Bloch, Henry was born on July 30, 1922, in Kansas City, Missouri. He graduated from Southwest High School in Kansas City and the University of Michigan. A member of the 95th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force, Henry served as a navigator on a B-17 during World War II. His tour of duty included 32 combat missions in Europe for which he earned the Air Medal and three Oak Leaf Clusters for meritorious service. His unit received a Presidential Citation for extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy.

Mr. Bloch co-founded H&R Block Inc. in 1955 with his brother Richard. The new firm specialized in income tax return preparation. They named the company “Block” because their family name, “Bloch,” was often mispronounced and misspelled. He founded the Business Council at the Nelson-Atkins in 1985.

Bloch had a passion for the arts.  He served as chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Nelson-Atkins from May 2004 to April 30, 2007.

In June 2007, the museum opened the internationally acclaimed Bloch Building expansion, named in honor of Marion and Henry Bloch. And in 2010, the Blochs announced that they would donate their expansive personal collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings to the museum, which includes works from artists such as Monet, van Gogh, Cezanne, Renoir and Degas.  The collection of 29 masterpieces was assembled by the Blochs over a period of more than 20 years with the guidance Marc F. Wilson, director emeritus of the Nelson-Atkins, and it was officially accessioned into the museum’s permanent collection in July 2015.

As part of accepting the Bloch Collection into the Nelson-Atkins collection, the museum began an $11.7 million renovation, funded by the Marion and Henry Bloch Family Foundation. The art was integrated with the museum’s European collection and the Bloch Galleries opened in March 2017. Since opening, the Bloch Galleries have become the most popular spot in the entire Nelson-Atkins.

Mr. Bloch is survived by four children: Robert L. Bloch, Thomas M. Bloch, Mrs. Mary Jo Brown, and Mrs. Elizabeth Uhlmann, all of Kansas City; 12 grandchildren, and 7 great-grandchildren. His wife of 62 years, Marion, died in 2013.