L. Henry Gissel Jr.

October 20, 1936September 15, 2020
Obituary of L. Henry Gissel Jr.
BELOVED HUSBAND, FATHER, GRANDFATHER, FRIEND AND CHILD OF GOD Henry always said “Everything has its season.” We are sad to announce that Henry Gissel’s season on earth has ended but know that his season in God’s kingdom has only just begun. Henry was born on the 20th of October 1936, in Houston, Texas, to Osceola Jemison Gissel of the Oklahoma Indian Territory and Lewis Henry Gissel of Austin, Texas. He died peacefully of congestive heart failure on Tuesday, the 15th of September 2020, surrounded by his loved ones. Henry spent his boyhood in the Riverside Terrace neighborhood of Houston, where he rode his bicycle on a paper route; played with his neighborhood friends; rode the bus to the Saturday movies and had fun! He attended MacGregor Elementary School, Johnston Junior High, San Jacinto High School and St. John’s School and excelling at each. The impact of his experiences attending St. John’s inspired Henry’s passionate advocacy of and dedication to the school and its community. In addition to the superb academic education he received, he loved his experiences on the basketball court. Their basketball team won the conference championship both in 1953 and 1954. Henry was all conference both years. Henry developed friendships at St. John’s that have lasted through the years, particularly his close friendship with classmate, Carl Vogt. It was during this formative period of academic pursuit and varsity basketball that Henry developed the stamp of his keen intellectual appetite, his amiable humor and the physical signatures of his 6’5” frame and deeply resonant voice. He graduated with honors in 1954. Education and learning were central in Henry’s life, and no subject was beyond his mastery. He garnered many academic awards during his student life despite establishing his tendency towards a messy desk (this never changed during his lifetime). After high school, destiny guided him to Rice Institute, now Rice University, where he earned his BA with honors in 1958. A highlight of his time at Rice was having Ben Orman as his roommate. They forged a friendship that has lasted these many years. This is a quote from a tribute to Henry in the 1958 Rice Campanile (yearbook), describing him as one of Rice’s Outstanding Seniors: “Continually serving the school (Rice), Henry has been Student Association Treasurer and Chairman of the 1958 Charity Drive. President and Treasurer of Will Rice (residential) College; President of Chevron (ROTC).” He was a member of the Canterbury Club (Episcopal Student Organization) and Les Hiboux (French Club). It is most noteworthy that Henry was also elected to the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa organization for academic excellence! After spending the summer traveling through Europe with his college friends, he left Houston for law school at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from SMU in 1961 with an LLB and was selected to Order of the Woolsack (now Order of the Coif). Henry was the first summer intern at Fulbright, Crooker, Freeman, Bates & Jaworski and following law school he practiced law with the Firm for 43 years. While in law school, he met a charming underclasswoman who caught his eye, Jo Claire Jones. Henry and Jo Claire met on a blind date to the Bob Hope show, set up by their mutual roommates, and it was love at first sight. They married after graduating and began their 52 years of married life while Henry was on active duty in the Army. First they lived in Charlottesville, Virginia, while Henry was attending the JAGC School and then moved to Fort Belvoir, Virginia, for the rest of his active tour. He spent two years, four months and three days serving his country, ending his military career as Captain, U.S. Army, Judge Advocate General Corps. They returned to Houston and Henry began his long career with Fulbright. They formed many friendships and raised three children. Upon retirement in 2007, as a senior partner, where he had served as Chairman and Co-Chairman of the Trusts and Estates Department from 1977 to 1997, Henry worked as a consultant to Wilmington Trust Company of Wilmington, Delaware until 2019. During his entire career, Henry maintained his stature in and among his many legal affiliations, and continued to be an author and frequent lecturer on probate, trust, estate planning and tax law subjects at the local, state and national level. Following the death of Jo Claire, Henry was re-introduced by friends to Margaret Lynn Guggolz, a recent widow. Their meeting quickly grew into a deep, abiding love that they believed was their gift from God. They were together for five years and married for three and enjoyed every day together. They each had a wide circle of friends and they had fun blending them. Lynn was a lifelong Methodist and Henry was a lifelong Episcopalian so together they attended both churches. Lynn taught him to appreciate opera and Henry taught her how to retrieve his birds on his bird hunts. Henry’s professional honors, affiliations, and leadership positions are extensive, as are his alumni and civic accolades. He is acknowledged as an innovative leader and pioneer in the estate planning field, both in Texas and nationally, and was listed in the first 25 editions of the Best Lawyers in America. Henry served as Chairman of the Council of the Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section of American Bar Association, Chairman of the Probate and Trust Law Committee of the Houston Bar Association, President and Regent Emeritus of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC), President of ACTEC Foundation, President of Houston Estate and Financial Forum, and President of National Association of Estate Planning Councils (NAEPC). Henry received the 1999 Rice Distinguished Alumni Award, the 2004 Houston Bar Association Probate, Trusts and Estate Section Distinguished Award, and the St. John’s School 2007 Distinguished Alumnus Award. He was elected into the Estate Planning Hall of Fame and honored as an Accredited Estate Planner (Distinguished) by the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils, November, 2011, Received the NAEPC’s Hartman Axley Lifetime Service Award in November, 2013 and the Lifetime Achievement Award-Probate given by the Real Estate Probate and Trust Section of the State Bar of Texas, June 2014. Highlights of Henry’s life were his membership in River Oaks Country Club, President and member of the Forest Club, Trustee of St. John’s School, Co-founder, Past President and Non-Executive board member of the Alumni Association of St. John’s School, President of the Association of Rice Alumni, former Treasurer of Endowment and member of the Vestry of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, member of the Board of Managing Directors of Retina Research Foundation and the enduring friendships from all of these organizations. Henry was a “people person.” He loved being with his friends and always knew the names of their spouses and their children (and usually where they were attending school). He liked nothing better than to have plans to meet for dinner, cocktails, or just a visit. He loved meeting his friends in the Tuesday Breakfast Club and the River Oaks Breakfast Club (even though it meant getting up so early!) The second Monday of each month was reserved for the Monday Munchers Supper Club. For a man large in stature, Henry was light on his feet, loving to dance at ACTEC meetings, Sarabande, Paul Jones and the 100 Dance Club parties. Beyond these accolades and activities of his life, Henry was a proud member of the Chickasaw Nation. He was an avid bird hunter, and he traveled with friends and family throughout Texas, Mexico, Central and South America to pursue and share his passion. He was a connoisseur of wine, making many trips globally to visit and discover vineyards and varietals. Perhaps less known, he was a dedicated collector of Royal Crown Derby porcelain paperweights. “GeeDaddy” took great delight asking if his grandchildren could spy a new acquisition. He visited the factory in Derby, England on three separate occasions and was recognized by them as a collector. Henry desired to know the world and its wonders. He loved the architecture, cuisine, people and cities of the world as well as the beauty of the natural world. His interest led to his extensive travels, which he shared with family, professional colleagues, great friends and most recently with Lynn. Many will recall the reports of these travel adventures and colorful photos featured in his annual holiday card. A notable, unplanned bit of travel occurred Halloween, 1969, when Henry and John Cook were hijacked to Cuba, attempting a return to Houston from business in Miami. Henry traveled all seven continents; visited all 30 Major League baseball stadiums with his son and grandson and had begun his quest to see all the presidential libraries and museums. Above all, Henry was interested, and his wingspan was wide. He was a dedicated supporter of friends, family and his many organizational affiliations. He was a mentor to many. He made lasting friendships in all aspects of his life, and he kept his friends close and constant from childhood through college, law school and the many professional organizations to which he belonged, as well as in his role as neighbor, husband, father and grandfather. His was a rich and full life of interest, study, service and companionship. The family would like to express their appreciation to the fine doctors and nurses at Houston Methodist Hospital who cared for Henry in his last days, especially Dr. Martin White, Dr. Patrick Cook, Dr. Ben Orman and the wonderful CICU staff of the Walter Tower. Henry was predeceased by his parents, Lewis and Osceola Gissel; his wife and the mother of his three children, Jo Claire Jones Gissel; her brother, Jodie Sconyers “Scotty” Jones; his sister, Julia Gissel Tipton and her husband William “Bill” Tipton. He is survived by his wife, Lynn Guggolz Gissel; his daughters, Virginia Claire Gissel Schwanauer and her husband Stephan, and Julia Sconyers “Scottie” Gissel; his son, Lewis Henry Gissel III and his wife Amy; his four grandchildren, August Julia Schwanauer and Claire Elizabeth Schwanauer, Lewis Henry Gissel IV and Frances Elizabeth “Lizzie” Gissel; sister-in-law, Susan “Susu” McCright Jones; nieces, Diane Tipton Adler and her husband Steve, and Ashley Jones Guglielmo and her husband Carey; and nephews, William “Billy” Tipton and his wife Donna, and Jodie Sconyers Jones. He is also survived by Lynn’s daughters, Elaine Roch Young and her husband Donnie, and Carolyn Roch Henneman and her husband Matt; her grandchildren, Rodney Young and his wife Casey, and Margaret “Maggie” Henneman; and great-granddaughter Emma Kathryn Young. A celebration of Henry’s life and sharing of remembrances will be announced at a later date. A private burial will take place at Glenwood Cemetery. In lieu of customary remembrances, and with gratitude from the family, memorial contributions in Henry’s name may be directed to St. Martin’s Episcopal Church Foundation, 717 Sage Road, Houston, TX, 77056; St. John’s School Endowment, 2401 Claremont Lane, Houston, TX, 77019; ACTEC Foundation, Attention: Amy Michaud, 901 15th Street, NW Ste. 525, Washington D.C. 20005; Retina Research Foundation, 1977 Butler Blvd., Houston, TX, 77030; or the charity of one’s choice.

Show your support


  • St. Martin’s Episcopal Church Foundation 717 Sage Road , Houstopn, TX 77056
  • St. John’s School Endowment 2401 Claremont Lane, Houston, TX 77019
  • ACTEC Foundation Attention: Amy Michaud, 901 15th Street, NW Ste. 525, , Sunnyside, Washington 20005
  • Retina Research Foundation 1977 Butler Blvd.,, Houston, TX 77030


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