Warren Luhrs remembered as humble and hands-on

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Warren Luhrs was not the type of man who surrounded himself with “yes men.” Instead, the man who co-founded Hunter and Silverton with his brother, John, chose to be around straight-shooting people with integrity.

That’s according to past Luhrs president Roger Yarborough, who told Trade Only Today that the Sept. 18 death of the 69-year-old Luhrs was a complete shock to everyone who knew him and a tragic loss of a great man.

“He had a massive heart attack; it was totally unexpected and he didn’t recover,” Yarborough told Trade Only. “He was going over to someone’s house when it happened. Warren was a real health nut, too. He did all the right things. He was 69 and a very young 69.”

There had been few details about Luhrs’ death because his wife, Linda, wanted to wait until after his funeral. “Warren’s family was very private,” said Yarborough, who has worked with Luhrs since 1988.

Luhrs spent as much time as possible with his wife and eight children, Yarborough said. He also spent a lot of time at his businesses, addressing the majority of workers by their first name.

“He was very well-respected and well-liked,” Yarborough said. “He walked the floor. He was a very hands-on person. He was a very creative, very innovative man. He had great integrity and had a structure about his life that demanded integrity from himself and people around him. He surrounded himself with people who were honest with him. He did not surround himself by yes men. He wanted the facts and nothing but the facts.”

Besides Luhrs’ passion for sailing, he was an outdoorsman who spent time in the wilderness, Yarborough said. “He was very much a gentleman. He never said a foul word. You couldn’t ask for anything better in an employer.”

Luhrs continued to be involved in the operations of the St. Augustine Marine Center, his one remaining business after Hunter Marine and the Luhrs Marine Group, which included Mainship and Silverton, declared bankruptcy.

Yarborough said the bankruptcy affected both brothers “horribly.”

“He and his brother John continued to pour money in those companies until there was no salvaging it. It wasn’t because of lack of effort on their part. The Luhrs Marine Group, in my estimation, became a victim of its own success,” Yarborough said.

When the downturn struck, the brothers honored obligations by buying back inventory from dealers, of which there was a lot across the five brands. “In reality, they tried probably five years longer than they should’ve to keep it going,” he said.

Seeing the companies sold off was “one of the tougher things they ever faced,” Yarborough said. “It was more than just a business. It was their life.”

“For all of his achievements and accomplishments, if I had to use one word to describe Warren, I would use the word humble,” Yarborough said. “It’s very seldom you hear an employee say I love my employer, but I really did. He was that kind of person. I can’t say anything bad about him.”

— Reagan Haynes


11 comments on “Warren Luhrs remembered as humble and hands-on

  1. Mike Drinkwine

    Very well put, Roger……Warren will surely be missed by all who knew him. My best to John, Linda, & Warren’s extended family.

  2. Andrew Whittington

    Warren Luhrs was a man to look up to, both in statue and character.

    When his only son at the time became ill and Warren was in a single hand Around the World sailboat race, he bowed out of the race and came home to be with his son. That’s love of family above all else.

    May God Bless Warren and give him rest.

  3. David E

    I never met Warren Luhrs, though for 40 years I lived in the same state; in fact the same area of the State.

    We had the same close mutual friends like the forward thinking Lars Bergstrom, Ulla Wetergren and a dozen others. We haunted the same boatyards, endeavored within the same business, having mutual curiosity about many elements related to boats and the forces that act upon them, describe them and ultimately validate or fail them. On several occasions we passed within arms length, never speaking, each absorbed in their own thoughts of some subject, related to boats in all likelihood.

    I passed Warren on several occasions over the years coming or going to the shop of our mutual friend and yachting/aerospace co-conspirator Lars Bergstrom, the brilliant inventor, sailor, mechanical and materials genius who joined Warren and others in the development of dozens of innovative, beneficial and trend setting technological advances employed at the Hunter Marine company in Alachua, Florida.

    Much of the seed and final products that led to the smashing of one of the oldest offshore sailing records in history By Warren were germinated and built on that shop floor on Lewis Avenue in Sarasota, together with dozens of practical applications that flowed to the highly advanced production systems Warren and his troops developed at Hunter, making sailing more fun, easier and affordable for thousands of families, while helping bring prosperity to the small town by employing several hundred in good paying, respectful jobs.

    To my deep regret, though we passed dozens of times as ships in the night, we never met in person.

    That phenomenon is not within my comprehension, as we shared so many mutual interests and space, the prototypes of which were on several occasions developed in Lars’ shop in Sarasota. On numerous occasions I inspected strange, but logical appearing designs under development and I expect Warren with his curious and comprehending mind did the same for some of my own esoteric adventures in design and engineering.

    I sit today in Warren’s private office in Alachua, as owner with my name replacing his on the business card. But I have learned in the year that I have occupied that seat, that I can never fill his shoes quite like he did.

    I have been privileged to read much of his history in the records, small models, concepts, half hulls, and other items his keen mind investigated. I have observed manufacturing concepts and technology years ahead of the marine industry, in general reflecting a clear understanding that value must be a key point in his chosen field and ethics must dictate the overall business mantra.

    His drafting tools, his personal journals written without script, the elaborate studies meticulously written to himself, that were left in Alachua when he walked through the doors for the last time, a victim of a grinding recession and predatory practices by some that he had nourished and enriched reflect an unsung giant of our times and industry. The forces that overcame heroic efforts reflect a proud, humble and brilliant son of the sea. The shoes are large.

    The personal writings, sketches and glimpses of his life spent in the pursuit of a proper business model, combining ethics, technology and value for the customer combined with a place of employment for employees that was not simply a place to work tell a story that is unknown or poorly recorded except by a few who were privileged to work alongside him.

    A few days before the sale of the company assets in New York Bankruptcy Court Warren called me and we spoke for over an hour, his distress obvious at the looming dismantling of forty years work. Work done with hands, head and heart. Within that conversation, which will remain private for all time were nuggets of wisdom, disappointment and dismay at the events unfolding. Occasionally a bright moment of levity recalling some mutually known event from the years before surfaced but for the most part the conversation was somber with mutual respect and regret.

    I bought most of the assets of Hunter Marine, Mainship and Luhrs a few days later at a cold, argumentative, ill conducted and roughshod sale process in a New York skyscraper overseen and mandated by people who were neither qualified to do so, some with questionable ethics; and agendas that have no time for, nor understanding of the scope and breadth of the lifetime effort by Warren and his assistants.

    In the ensuing months the once proud empire built by the sons of Henry Luhrs have been dismantled. Crudely, with animosity, malice and disrespect for a life’s work.

    I have since spent countless evenings reading the history and demise of Hunter. Mainship and Luhrs. I find no evidence that Warren derived any undeserved benefit from the destruction of his life’s work. Rather I see a man who did his best, pouring money long ago earned back into the company in desperate attempts to save it from the vultures who bled it and fed on the carnage as if it were common road kill.

    I hope to rebuild Warren’s favorite part of that fallen empire, Now Marlow Hunter and Mainship, using many of the principles Warren developed and represented.

    I end what is meant to pay great tribute to a deserving man that has earned a berth on a smooth sail through eternity, with the stern opinion that any who hastened, caused and fed on the collapse of his efforts could not then, cannot now and as history will record cannot in the future carry his top siders.

    Like the trend and record setting boat that he imagined, designed, named, built and sailed;

    Warren was Hunters Child.

  4. robert martz-chapmans boat sales

    My condolences to the family. Having known Warren and most of the Luhrs family since the days in Morgan NJ,I wish to express my sadness at Warrens passing. I will remember him as the leader that he was in his many contibutions to box9e8ating and the living of life. Bob Martz

  5. Capt. Philip Topps, AMS

    So sorry to hear of the loss of Mr. Warren Luhrs.
    My condolences to the family of this giant in the marine industry.

  6. David Stewart

    Warren was a real pioneer in the sailing world , he made sailing fun and affordable for a whole new market. His boats were innovative and a great value, his friendship with Lars only added to their performance and unique appeal. He and his leather shoulder bag were a familiar sight at many Annapolis Boats Shows, he was a real gentleman and visionary.
    My sincere condolences to his family and friends.

  7. Spencer Markatos

    I have known Warren since 1964, we went to college together were Fraternity Brothers and roomates from time to time.Hard to believe that he is gone, I spoke with him the Thursday before he past away and as always he was the dear friend I had known him to be all those years. I will remember driving to Alaska in the 60s in his Volkswagen for adventure and some Bear hunting, sailing the Chesapeake in a boat he described as a “Bahama Dink” and later on in his Cal 25.Warren was a straight and true person somone you would definately want as your “Wing Man.” We had some wonderful experiences together over the years and I will cherish those times forever.Warren accomplished many great thing in his life and I believe we were all fortunate to have known him. Warren was a man of few words so I will end here but they dont make them like him anymore and as a matter of fact I know they only made one.

  8. Joseph

    I attended and graduated from Woodbridge Sr. High, NJ, with Warren between 1959 and 1963. His father owned Luhrs Boats and Yachts in Matawan, NJ. He was a great scholar, athlete and classmate.
    Warren was a very polite person treating people with respect. Although I had not seen him since 1963 at graduation, I could always see him afterwards walking the high ground of life. May he be in the hands of GOD who will comfort his loved ones as well as blessing him with a an eternal life in Heaven.

  9. Dan Johnson

    I went to work at Luhrs in 1990 as a warehouse material handler. Through many opportunities afforded me, I eventually worked my way to purchasing and that’s is a position I’ve held at various companies and in management positions since. I credit Warren’s support and patience with me, as well as others on the St. Augustine team, to my personal and professional growth. He was a very humble man who never once had an air of superiority toward anyone. He was very approachable and friendly. I look forward to seeing him again after.

  10. Fred J. Adler

    In 1986 my wife Danita and I chose Hunter 23 wing-keeled sloops for our small Sailing School at the London Bridge on Lake Havasu in Arizona. As a small Hunter Sailboat dealer, we toured the Hunter Facility that year and were impressed with what a clean, modern facility it was; and, especially enjoyed it when Warren took the time to speak, just a little, to us small Boat Dealers. I mentioned that I thought there also needed to be smaller Hunter Day Sailers to help young people and newcomers be introduced to the sport. Warren said nothing, but a few years later, there they were on the production line. Now in Marine Construction, Danita and I still keep a Hunter 23 at our local marina to enjoy. Can’t wait to see you again Warren (John 5:28). Thank you, Fred Adler – London Bridge Marine.

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