Henry Brandtjen, Jr., retired Chairman of the Board of Brandtjen & Kluge, Inc., has died.
Brandtjen, who was 85 passed away quietly at home, having put up a brave fight with cancer, surrounded by family, on January 4, 2014.
Brandtjen graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1952 with a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering. He was also a member of the Chi Psi Fraternity. Upon graduation, Brandtjen served in the US Army and, in 1955, went to work at the family business and became the third generation to run the company.
When Brandtjen took over leadership of the company the biggest challenge he faced was the rapid advancement of offset printing technology. At that time the company dominated the letterpress printing equipment market but that dominance was coming to an end. Brandtjen guided the company through transition and steered it into the market it continues to be the world leader in today: foil stamping, embossing and die cutting equipment. "It was tough, we were in a place where technology was changing our industry and we had to focus on reinventing ourselves and establishing a new niche in the printing industry" Brandtjen said in an interview with a company archivist.
Brandtjen also headed the acquisition that lead to Kluge's strength and success in folding and gluing equipment. "He lived and breathed Kluge, he loved the products, customers and employees," Brandtjen's son, Hank, said on Tuesday.
Under Brandtjen's leadership in the 1960's the company earned the prestigious E Award for export excellence from the US Government and followed that up with the E-Star Award for continued excellence. "Henry was not only a friend but a mentor and adviser," said Michael Aumann, Brandtjen and Kluge CEO. "His tremendous technical aptitude and tenacity allowed our company to achieve great success and weather some of the most severe storms in our 95-year history. At Brandtjen and Kluge we are proud to carry on Henry's legacy."
Affectionately known as "Mr. B." to his employees and co-workers, Brandtjen was noted for his technical knowledge and passion for the printing industry. Brandtjen was honored with the Corporate Gegenheimer Award by NPES, the trade association that serves printing equipment manufacturers. In 1992 he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by Printing Impressions Magazine and in 2005 the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Foil Stamping and Special Effects Association (FSEA).
In the 1960's, Brandtjen earned his private pilot's license and went on to own his own airplane which he used for both business and pleasure. He continued to fly his own plane into his 70's.
Always a believer in taking care of one's body and a lover of the outdoors, Brandtjen never shied away from a challenge. He canoed to the Arctic Circle, peddled his bike across Europe multiple times and yearly took on the Minnesota Ironman. In 1978 Brandtjen found his passion when he went heli-skiing with Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH). He continued to heli-ski until he was 75 and eventually skied over 10 million vertical feet. The friends he made while skiing with CMH and the company itself honored him the Silver Skier Award in 1989. When diagnosed with cancer in March 2013 he immediately headed to Vail, CO to ski with his family.
Brandtjen is survived by his son Henry Brandtjen, III "Hank" (Kirstin), President of Brandtjen and Kluge, his daughter Julia Mitchell Fink (Michael), and four grandchildren.
A Celebration of Henry's Life will be held Saturday, January 11th at 11 AM at Bradshaw Funeral Services, 678 South Snelling Avenue, St. Paul, MN. Memorials are preferred to Brandtjen Family Endowment c/o Saint Paul Academy, 1712 Randolph Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55105.