Charles Edward Entenmann, who helped propel his family’s namesake bakery in Bay Shore into a national brand and shared his wealth with community institutions, died of heart complications on Feb. 24 in Hialeah, Florida, his son said. He was 92.
Family and friends gathered last week to bury Entenmann in Oakwood Cemetery in East Quogue, honoring a skilled tinkerer who had patents for technology developed at the bakery as well as for wound sealants and energy-generating technology, said his son, Charles William Entenmann, 65, of Key Largo, Florida.
"He was an extremely generous man," the son said. "He was just a really intelligent guy … He had a fantastic sense of humor and was always playing jokes on people and having fun. He did it right."
Charles E. Entenmann, who went by Charlie, was born in 1929 at what's now the Entenmann Family Campus at South Shore University Hospital in Bay Shore, his son said. Entenmann and his two brothers grew up working in the family bakery, which their father had moved to Bay Shore from Brooklyn. Their grandfather, a German immigrant, launched the enterprise in 1898.
Charlie Entenmann met his wife, Nancy Lee Drake, at Bay Shore High School, though the two did not date and marry until after graduation, their son said. Shortly after the wedding, Entenmann was drafted during the Korean War and taught service members how to use radar in New Jersey, his son said.
While the Entenmann brothers were serving in the military, their father died of a heart attack in 1951. The trio returned to Bay Shore to help their mother, Martha, run the bakery. Charlie Entenmann focused on engineering and technical aspects of Entenmann’s, while his brother Robert specialized in sales and his brother William concentrated on baking.
Their generation helped catapult Entenmann's into a household name by shifting from home delivery to wholesaling at supermarkets. They introduced see-through packaging, which enticed shoppers by showing the cakes, cookies and other treats. Entenmann's moved from Main Street to Bay Shore's Fifth Avenue, where the plant grew from 5 acres in 1961 to 14 acres by 2014.
The family sold their business to Warner-Lambert Co. for $233 million in 1978. The brand has since traded hands several times and is currently owned by Bimbo Bakeries USA, which stopped production in Bay Shore in 2014.
Charlie Entenmann felt obligated to give back to Bay Shore, his son said. He contributed to several local organizations, including the hospital, the Seatuck Environmental Association, a nonprofit based in Islip; and the Great South Bay YMCA, which he helped get off the ground. Entenmann often requested that his involvement not be publicized, nonprofit leaders said.
"He never wanted the accolades, the publicity; and when he gave, he gave with all his heart and with complete faith and trust in you," said Anne Brigis, who was the associate executive director when the Great South Bay Y opened and now works as president and CEO of the YMCA of Long Island Association Services. "He treated everybody with respect. It didn’t matter if you were a janitor at the bakery or a custodian at the Y or senior leadership."
His local involvement continued after his business endeavors took him to other locations — manufacturing egg cartons in North Carolina, foam food containers in Florida and mining industrial garnet in Maine, his son said.
Charlie Entenmann moved in the mid-1980s to Florida, where he founded Biolife LLC, which created technology to help seal wounds, and supported and conducted research on cold fusion, his son said. Cold fusion refers to attempts to produce energy on Earth replicating the nuclear reactions that occur in the sun.
"Nobody knows how he got so smart. He never went to school," Charles W. Entenmann said. "I don't think he ever forgot anything he read."
His father enjoyed searching for treasures and relics while diving on the ocean floor, flying airplanes and fishing, the son said.
"I'm going to tell you something that's been pretty much a secret, most of my life anyway," the son said. "He didn't eat Entenmann's cake … He just wasn't a dessert guy."
In addition to his son, Charlie Entenmann is survived by his daughter Susan Nalewajk, of New Hampshire; seven grandchildren; and several great-grandchildren. His wife, Nancy, and daughter Barbara Thompson predeceased him.