Werner Klugman, a former president of the American Ethical Union and Landers Segal Color Co. Inc., known for his charm, wit, and irrepressible sense of humor, died peacefully at home on June 14. He was 92 and had been battling Alzheimer’s disease.
Born in Fuerth, Germany on Leap Day in 1920, Werner was forced to leave the country amid the rise of the Nazi regime. With the assistance of his uncle Freddie, he was able to board passage on a steamship in 1937 and find safety with family members in Manhattan.
Once in New York, Werner became acquainted with the Ethical Culture Society, an organization that helped him to assimilate smoothly to American culture. He gave back much in return, eventually serving as president of the American Ethical Union from 1962 to 1967 and founding the Ethical Society of Northern Westchester with his first wife Phila, another German immigrant who was drawn to the warmth of the Ethical Society.
In 1945, Werner and Phila settled down in Pleasantville, N.Y., where they raised their three daughters. A year after Phila’s untimely death in 1977, Werner remarried Bruni Verges in 1978. She died in 1992.
Ever an adept polyglot, he joined the U.S. Fifth Army Corps of Engineers in 1942, serving in Italy and North Africa as technical sergeant. He later received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Columbia University and a master’s degree in urban planning and policy from the New School, ultimately leading to his involvement in the coatings industry.
In 1975, Werner and business partner Howard Greenwald acquired Landers Segal Color Co., a landmark move in both of their careers. Under their guidance, the company flourished into a national distributor of pigments to the industrial fields of coatings, ink, plastic and construction. Werner retired from the company in 1996.
Despite his professional successes, Werner’s true devotion was to the burgeoning family that adored him. He taught his children and grandchildren how to play tennis and ski — his two favorite sports — and often could be seen in his biscuit-colored sweaters attending their sports games and recitals.
He and his family made their summer home on Martha’s Vineyard. It was there that he felt most at home and took pleasure in the smallest of adventures, telling members of each generation of his bicycle excursions as a young man in Germany, and encouraging them to similarly make their own discoveries.
Werner is survived by three daughters: Carol and her husband John Carey, Margaret, and Deb and her husband Carl Mehne; his stepdaughter Pilar; his stepson Sebastian; and six grandchildren, Remy, Benjamin, Juliette, Luke, Tasha, Michelle and Caroline.
Even when at his most mischievous, Werner was an inspiration to all he knew. His humor, sense of adventure, and above all, unwavering love of those around him marked all that he did.
“Turn down any little road,” he used to say, “and you’ll never know what you may find.”
A memorial service will be held on June 30 at the Ethical Culture Society, 2 West 64 Street, New York, N.Y. at 6 p.m.
Donations in his memory can be made to: American Ethical Union, Ethical Society of Northern Westchester, Planned Parenthood, Hospice Care in Westchester and Putnam Inc.