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An Interview with Henry Vinson: Funeral Director and Commercial Pilot



Henry Vinson

Not many people have seen the world the way that Henry Vinson has. As a commercial pilot, flight instructor, licensed embalmer, and funeral director, he has a unique perspective on life that has allowed him to succeed as an entrepreneur. Henry has always taken interest in the funeral service industry, and for Vinson, funerals are a wonderful way to celebrate life. Knowing that life is short, Henry Vinson has never been afraid to follow his passions. As an avid traveler, Henry Vinson feels lucky to meet new people, immerse himself in different cultures, and see the world in a remarkable way. He began his career earning his bachelor’s degree from the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Sciences and is a graduate of William Howard Taft University where he attended law school. Following this, Henry Vinson earned his Master of Science Integrated Marketing Communications from West Virginia University, and resourcefully continued his education when he attended The Bolivar School of Aviation. Obtaining his licenses & certifications from the Federal Aviation Administration, Henry Vinson is now a commercially rated pilot for single and multiple engine airplanes. Subsequently, he achieved his seaplane license rating and is a certified flight instructor for airplanes and helicopters. Henry Vinson chalks up all of these accomplishments to passion.


How did you become involved in the seemingly different professions of funeral director and a commercial pilot?

Ever since I can remember, I have been a passionate person. Passion is something I believe we all have, and our life circumstances will dictate what passions we pursue. For me, the idea of death gives me a unique appreciation for celebrating life and never taking a single moment for granted. In the same vein, I have always had a passion for travel, and realized that life was too short not to pursue it as a commercial pilot.


What do you love most about what you do?

Grief and loss are extremely painful for families and loved ones, and being able to be a supportive pillar during this difficult time provides me with a sense of deep fulfillment. Ironically enough, being a Funeral Director and Licensed Embalmer has given me a great appreciation for life, and has allowed me to live each day like it is my last. As a commercial pilot, I feel blessed every time I am able to see a new city, engage with a new culture, or meet different people. So much of what I experience as a pilot wouldn’t have been imaginable 100 years ago—commercial flight is wholly new to our generation and I am never flippant about how special and unique this opportunity is. Both of my professions have opened up my mind and heart to so many new experiences, and have made me a better person all around.


What inspires you?

I am inspired by the uncertainty of what lies ahead. I think that so many people feel paralyzed, worried and concerned about what the future holds, but for me, the uncertainty holds endless possibilities. It is important to live in a world where we conceptualize the future as being positive and fulfilling. We have very little control over what happens to us, but all of the control over how we react to it. I try to live my life through this optimistic lens and am inspired by the people I might meet, the places I might go, and the things I might experience.


Who inspires you and why?

Anyone willing to push themselves beyond their capabilities. One example is Elon Musk. As a highly passionate person, Elon Musk is driven by an innate desire to leave the world a better place than when he found it. This passion has allowed him to act within the interest of what is best for the planet, profits aside. So many of us are driven by what will make us the most money, and too often, these individuals feel disconnected, burnt out, and unmotivated. We cannot achieve our greatest potential if we do not feel passionately connected to what we do. It is impossible.

What advice would you give someone interested in being a Commercial Pilot or Funeral Director?

I would give them both the same advice: love what you do. I can’t stress enough how important it is to be passionate about what you do. Not everyone will be passionate about any profession they pursue. If you love something and are motivated by it, you will be successful. When things get difficult, and they always do, the passion will carry you through your darkest moments. Having a personal connection to being a commercial pilot or funeral director is fundamental to being successful in either.


What is the secret to your success?

I don’t think there is anyone secret. I think it is a matter of learning yourself, what works for you, and what doesn’t. Everyone is different, and that is the greatest difficulty of achieving success: there is no single path forward. For some people, the secret is waking up early. For some, it is meditating. For some, it is reading a new book every week. For some, it is keeping a strict schedule. For others, it is working while listening to classical music. It also depends on how you characterize success. For me, success is about happiness, connectedness, and passion, which makes me successful in my eyes.


What is one thing you wish everyone knew?

Life is short. I know that everyone says it, but many of us don’t live it. Everyday really could be your last, but we don’t live that way. Only when we are faced with loss or grief do we understand that fact on a visceral level. Don’t wait for tragedy to remind you to love and live every moment.


What is one thing that should never be forgotten?

You are not alone. When life gets hard, it might be your instinct to solve problems on your own. Don’t do that. No one in the history of mankind has ever accomplished something without the help of others. We are all connected, so seek out people who have the same values as yourself, and don’t be afraid to reach out when you need it.


What is your definition of life?

No one knows what they are doing. It is easy to assume that everyone else is walking around with a handbook on life, but the truth is that we are all flying by the seat of our pants, figuring it out as we go along. Don’t be intimidated by ‘not knowing’, just be brave enough to learn and try.


What do you hope the Henry Vinson Scholarship will do?

I hope to cultivate positive change so that other passionate individuals can achieve their goals without worrying about their finances. I want to be able to do everything I can do help others, and this scholarship is just an extension of that intention.

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