Brandtjen Jr., 85, Chairman of Brandtjen & Kluge, Passes
ST. CROIX FALLS, WI—Henry Brandtjen, Jr., retired chairman of the board of Brandtjen & Kluge Inc., has died following a battle with cancer. Mr. Brandtjen, who was 85, passed away at home, surrounded by family, on Jan. 4.
Mr. Brandtjen graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1952 with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. He was also a member of the Chi Psi Fraternity. Upon graduation, Mr. Brandtjen served in the U.S. Army and, in 1955, went to work at the family business and became the third generation to run the company.
When Mr. 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 served the letterpress printing equipment market. He guided the company through a transition and steered it into the market it currently addresses: foil stamping, embossing and diecutting 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," Mr. Brandtjen said in an interview with a company archivist.
Mr. 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," Mr. Brandtjen's son, Hank, said.
Under Henry Brandtjen's leadership in the 1960s, the company earned the prestigious E Award for export excellence from the U.S. Government and followed that up with the E-Star Award for continued excellence.
"Henry was not only a friend but a mentor and adviser," revered 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, Mr. Brandtjen was noted for his technical knowledge and passion for the printing industry. He 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 1960s, Mr. 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 70s.
Always a believer in taking care of one's body and a lover of the outdoors, Mr. 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, he 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 with 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 "Hank" Brandtjen III (Kirstin), president of Brandtjen and Kluge, his daughter Julia Mitchell Fink (Michael), and four grandchildren.