Obituary: Henry ‘Hy’ Riter Agens
Henry Riter Agens of Montclair, who had a longtime career in radio, television and film and was known professionally as “Hy” Agens, died on March 11, 2023, after fighting cancer, COPD and heart disease. He was 82.
Mr. Agens was born in 1940 to David Taylor Agens and Margaret Agusta Riter at Mountainside hospital.
He attended Montclair Academy and graduated in 1958, going on to study at Colgate University and Fairleigh Dickinson University.
While he was at Colgate, he got involved at the university radio station. He worked at other local stations, WNNJ Newton, WSUS Franklin and at WTLB and WRUN Rome-Utica, New York.
Mr. Agens then moved to Burnt Hills, New York, and worked at WGY in Schenectady, New York. He was the number one drive-time personality from 1969 to 1973.
While at WGY, he did many voice-over commercials for local merchants and businesses. After he hired an agent one of his first jobs was a national on-camera commercial (JC Penny shoes) that aired during the World Series.
Mr. Agens went on to make hundreds of local and national commercials. He was the Jif Peanut Butter spokesperson for 10 years, coining the phrase, “Choosy mothers choose Jif.” He also did on-camera work for Clorox, Dynamo, Daytril, KFC, Topol, Lavoris and many more companies.
He also did voice-overs for Pan Am, the Bloomberg network and the Saratoga Performing Arts Center and, for ABC, a retrospective on Barbra Streisand. He made documentaries and starred in soaps and films. He appeared on the “Three on a Match” game show with Bill Cullen, winning money and prizes. He worked with Kathy Lee Gifford for a show that sold nationally called “Weekday.”
Mr. Agens and his wife, Melee, had three sons, whom they raised in Burnt Hills, and four grandchildren. While growing up, the grandchildren spent several summers traveling to many historical places, swimming in their pool, going to the shore, attending Broadway shows and going to Yankee games.
His passions were music, baseball, politics, trivia, history and his golden retriever, Rory. He loved writing for his Class of ’58 at MKA alumni magazine. He told classmates’ life stories and helped organize reunions.
He was very interested in his ancestry and in the history of Montclair, as he was a descendant of William Ball, Jasper Crane and others who came to the area in 1616. He always talked about his grandfather, Henry Gilbert Riter (president of the Thomas Edison Co.), who lived on Stonebridge Road.
Mr. Agens is survived by his wife of 60 years, Melee Verro Agens; two sons, Glenn Taylor Agens of Vernon and his two children, Van Taylor Agens of New York City and James Riter Agens of Columbus, South Carolina, and Dana Verro Agens of Los Angeles; and a daughter-in-law, Betty, of Pine, Colorado, and her two children, Henry Riter Agens III of Dallas and Alta Melee Agens of Littleton, Colorado, whom she had with Mr. Agens’ deceased oldest son, Henry II.
The family will hold a celebration of life at a later date. Burial is at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery in Newark.
Donations in Mr. Agens’ memory can be made to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center of New York.
Arrangements were by Caggiano Memorial Home for Funerals, 62 Grove St.