Wolfgang Karl Thoma, a cabinetmaker from Huntington, has died in Freiburg, Germany. He was 86.
Thoma, born in Freiburg, always loved cabinetmaking, having learned the craft from his grandfather, according to his family. He worked at his grandfather's antique shop after receiving a degree in cabinetmaking at a two-year trade school.
His wife, the former Annemarie Schweier, became his business partner and they operated A and W International Antiques in Huntington.
The couple met at Carnival, a German celebration, in 1954, when Schweier was 17 and Thoma was 26. They were married in August 1955. In 1956, they moved to the United States with their daughter, Martina, and started the antique shop.
The family lived and worked on East Main Street, where Thoma restored antiques in an old barn, for more than 50 years.
"We became collectors," Schweier said. "Due to his expertise, we could buy furniture without the Fifth Avenue price tag."
The couple eventually expanded their business and began to buy and sell antiques at local flea markets, antique shows and higher-end auction houses in New York City, such as Sotheby's and Christie's, said Christine Jordan, of Greenlawn, another daughter. Thoma also invented his own furniture polish, T-Patina, which he sold to customers, Jordan said, and trained other cabinetmakers.
Robert Latorre, of Dallas, began working with Thoma in the 1960s when he was only 14. "He had so much talent," he said. "He could take a piece of firewood and create magic."
After working at the store after school through high school, Latorre went to college and eventually opened his own custard shop in Northport, naming it Wolfie's Custard after his mentor. "He was a very special human being, I had a very special connection with him," he said.
Besides restoring antiques, Thoma enjoyed playing chess and pool. Every Friday night he would host "pool night" in the basement he dug out himself. The basement had a "ship-like" atmosphere complete with paneled and antique ship windows and a painting of an ocean scene done by Thoma himself, along with an antique pool table and wooden bar, Jordan said.
Thoma also enjoyed riding motorcycles and owned a BMW bike for many years. "He was like the Energizer bunny, he always had something to do," Latorre said. "If you said, 'Let's go get a motorcycle,' he said 'sure.' "
In 2009, he developed bone cancer and moved back to his homeland last September. He died on Jan. 30.
"We have three children and we provided for them and sent them to college and married them off," Schweier said. "It all worked out very well."
Besides his wife and two daughters, Thoma is survived by a third daughter, Babette Furman of Greenwich, N.Y., a brother, Heinz Thoma and sister, Charlotte Biermann, both of Freiburg, and six grandchildren.
The memorial service was held on Saturday at Centerport United Methodist Church. "It was a lovely memorial celebrating life with his three daughters, grandchildren, family and friends," Jordan said.