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Patrick Stibbs

On The Spot Radio

Henry Rice, the man who has grilled up sizzling burgers at Bronco’s Hamburgers in Omaha for over six decades, passed away Saturday morning after a brave battle with cancer. He was 78.

Henry was a true legend in the restaurant industry. He spent an amazing 64 years with Bronco’s, his incredible journey there beginning when he was just 15 years old. He joined the team under the guidance of Bronco’s founder Bill Barnes, the owner of Primas drive-in located at 16th and Binney.

Starting out as a carhop, it was tough at first for the young teenager – the concept of fast food was still relatively new, and when “Bronco” Billy Barnes opened the first Bronco’s in 1959 (at 30th and Fort), Henry had to adapt to the demands of the grill.

“Not very good at first – I’ll be honest,” Henry once said. “It was a new experience for me. I wasn’t used to the fast food. It was all new in them days.”

Henry’s skills on the grill improved over time, earning him a promotion to the management team at Bronco’s. His dedication to his work and his commitment to providing excellent service to customers set him apart. Throughout his career, Henry had the privilege of working with three generations of the Barnes family, who still own Bronco’s today.

“This is the third generation of the Barnes family. I worked for the dad, the son, and now the grandson, and they’ve all treated me very, very well,” Henry once said.

Over the years, Henry Rice has not only served countless customers but has also made a lasting impact on those he worked with. Many former colleagues and employees have expressed their gratitude for the opportunities he provided and the positive influence he had on their lives.

A few years ago, Henry Rice tried to retire, but that didn’t work out too well; he was soon back on the job – he missed Bronco’s and the staff (and customers) missed him.

“I’ve known so many people who have retired, they end up getting a part-time job,” said Henry in 2021. “Well, if I’m going to get a part-time job, I might as well (go back to) what I do best.”

On a personal note, I’ve known Henry for decades; in fact, the first time I met him was when I was about 10 years old, when my dad was a Bronco’s franchisee. Henry had so many great stories about my dad, many I had never heard before. What a pleasure it was years later when I had the opportunity to work with Bronco’s (and Henry) professionally.

I hope I can speak for everyone who knew or worked with Henry at Bronco’s or his friends and customers when I say that Henry was one of the finest human beings to walk the earth.

We love you, Henry, and we’re going to miss you, sir.

Henry Rice (1945-2023)