This story is part of a collaborative project between Project: Cold Case and a University of North Florida Journalism class.
While living in Louisville, Kentucky, Henry “Si” Surowski figured out how to turn a passion into a success story. And his passion was tennis.
In the late 1960s, Henry began playing tennis casually and soon fell in love with the sport. He created the “Si” System, a self-evaluation system that was used by around 33,000 amateur players and was under consideration for potential adoption by the US Tennis Association.
But on June 20, 1976, Henry was shot five times in the parking lot of a Louisville Holiday Inn.
His murder has never been solved.
Henry lived his life as a career-driven, family man. He did his best to keep his work life and private life separate.
He worked as a vice president in charge of marketing for United Electronics from 1968 until 1972. In this position, he developed subsidiary companies for General Education Services Corp., which operated home-study schools and was involved in book publishing and printing. It was the parent firm of United Electronics.
Tammy Baker, Henry’s cousin, was 8 years old when Henry was murdered. She recalls her father working hard to get answers for everyone since he was a police officer.
She doesn’t remember much about him, but she remembers how much everyone talked about Henry.
“My mom said that he was always fun to be around and made you feel comfortable,” Tammy recalled.
Henry was the guy at the family gatherings who made everything fun. He valued his time off with his wife, the former Doris Johnson, and son, Steven C. Surowski, taking extra care on his weekends to put them first over any work call.
And there were lots of work calls, especially after Henry developed his tennis invention.
The ‘Si’ System, which takes its name from Henry’s own nickname, was meant to encourage beginner tennis players to come to tournaments and participate. The ranking system created fair, equal-level matches between players.
Henry had applied the system to the Fern Valley Tennis Club in Louisville, Kentucky, where he was both a managing shareholder and president. When the system began to take its hold in the tennis community, Henry and his partners received many offers to sell and expand the system.
Except Henry wasn’t interested in selling.
On that Sunday in June, he received a call he could not ignore.
Henry’s phone had rung repeatedly throughout the day. Someone from the same number called over and over, and at some point, no one could ignore the annoying ring echoing throughout the house.
When Henry finally cracked and answered the phone, he listened to the voice of a person claiming to want to help expand the ‘Si’ System to Nashville.
Henry decided to meet the individual face-to-face with the idea of keeping the meeting short and to the point. He wanted to get back to his family.
After leaving his home around 5:45 p.m., Henry was found dead in the parking lot of the local Holiday Inn almost an hour later.
Since 2010, the site has become a shopping center. Back in 1976, the parking lot was long and stretched around three sides of the Holiday Inn from the main road to the back of the building.
Henry was 40 years old when he was murdered.
No one reported hearing gunshots that night, but Henry was shot at least five times. The county police chief at the time, Russell McDaniel, said that the killing had all the signs of being a hired hit.
Baker says that the murder made her become more aware of her surroundings. She recalls her dad telling her to always fight back if she found herself in a similar situation.
“Ever since I can remember, it has always been ‘don’t ever let anybody put you in a situation like this, and if somebody tries to grab you, don’t go compliantly,’” Tammy said of her father’s teachings.
Over four decades have passed since Henry’s murder. He would be in his mid-80s if alive today.
While time has passed, his family continues to fight for answers despite the case going cold.
If you have any information on the unsolved murder of Henry Surowski, please call the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office at (800) 280-6694
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