NORTH CHANNEL CHAMBER: Mattress Mack speaks at luncheon

mattress mackBy Gilbert Hoffman

I’ve known Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale since about 1980, when we both arrived in Houston from “up north” — he Dallas, me Pennsylvania. Over the years, I have heard him speak dozen of times, yet I never tire of his message, and his delivery. His energy, dedication, and focus is amazing for a man with 300 employees, and major health problems.

His message is about hard work as the key to success, and the importance of the customer and his or her interests.

Over the years, his “stump speech” has been refined, and now it is not just about his life’s story of creating a successful business, but more about the trials, challenges, and triumphs he and his family faced along the way, and the importance of relationships.

Do you know anyone else as optimistic, with a big smile, who has had their building set on fire by an arsonist, undergone major heart surgery, and had a daughter with a serious debilitating disease, OCD?

Mack paced the stage of the San Jacinto Monument Room last Friday, as he told his story to an enthralled room of Chamber members and guests.

He talked of how his daughter Elizabeth, faced with an overwhelming case of Obsessive Compulsive Disease, with the help of her parents had embraced therapy and become a poster child for the Menninger Clinic, and gone on to make helping other OCD cases her life’s work.

He talked about heart disease in his family, with his brother suffering a major heart attack and aneurysm, and his own need for heart surgery. But out of this experience he met some leading heart surgeons and specialists at St. Luke’s Heart Institute. Men like Dr. Bud Fraser, and Dr. Jim Grata. As a result, he became interested in how to prevent and treat these trauma cases involving the heart, and he chose to help fund a radical new approach, a Mobile Stroke Ambulance equipped to diagnose and treat stroke and heart attacks prior to transport to the hospital.

Mack’s final story of the day was about the Brookwood Center in Brookshire, an institution devoted to the care and treatment of children with severe learning and behavior disabilities. Mack praised the head of the school, who had started it because her own daughter had down syndrome, but with her care lived a full and useful live, and is now 60 years old, unusual for someone with that disease. Another successful patient of this Center, Mack said, was actor Woody Harrelson.

Mack tailored his talk to his audience, and what was on his mind from recent experience. He also joked about writing the outline of his talk on a handy copy of the North Channel STAR that I placed on his table.

But as usual, he not only entertained but informed the chamber group.

His signature commercial message “Save You Money” he skipped, probably because his red shirt said “Is Made in America Important to You?”

An apt message for one that strongly believes, “Work is Life’s Great Therapy.”