Gary Klausner in 2023. At the age of 10, he...

Gary Klausner in 2023. At the age of 10, he was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis and later underwent a double lung transplant. He died Wednesday, three days before his 59th birthday. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

Gary Klausner, a Plainview man with cystic fibrosis who had a double lung transplant in December 1998, died Wednesday, three days before his 59th birthday, his son said.

Klausner was born with cystic fibrosis, a lung disease that makes it hard to breathe, and a rare bacterial infection that forced him to seek the transplant more than 25 years ago. Doctors say most people with a double lung transplant live for a median of 10 years.

Klausner was determined to become the longest living double lung transplant patient. 

Newsday twice reported on Klausner for his remarkable achievements.

He is survived by his wife, Robin; his twin sons, Steven and Matthew, 25; his brother, Lloyd; and his father, Walter.

Born on April 20,1965 at Coney Island Hospital to Walter and Elaine, Klausner grew up in Merrick.

At the age of 10, Klausner was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis — a death sentence for children at that time. He was not expected to live past age 16.

“Back then, you didn't have adults with cystic fibrosis,” Klausner previously told Newsday. “No one survived.”

Despite the initial diagnosis, Klausner said he led a relatively healthy life, playing college tennis and describing himself as a “basketball junkie.”

He was a Miami Dolphins fan, and his favorite player was Dan Marino.

Klausner was also an avid pizza lover and ate “some form of pizza once a day.” His favorite order was the upside down Sicilian from Pizza Supreme in Garden City.

He studied business administration at the University of Maryland, and never stopped loving his alma mater.

He will be buried in the school’s sweatshirt, his son said. Klausner and his family visited the campus in January to watch a football game.

“He loved that school," Steven said.

He and his wife, Robin, met at a bar in Manhattan, after he returned to New York after graduation. Robin had gone on a date with one of Klausner’s best friends and “it didn’t work out.”

“They basically realized, maybe this didn’t work out, but maybe let's introduce you to Gary,” said Steven.

The couple married in 1995. In July 1998, when Robin was about six months pregnant, Klausner developed a rare bacterial infection called Burkholderia cepacia and was told that in order to live, he would need a double lung transplant.

One week after his sons were born, he traveled to Duke University in North Carolina to be on their transplant list.

He received a double lung transplant on Dec. 20, 1998.

Since then, Klausner lived his life to the fullest, surpassing all odds and expectations. He ran two half-marathons with his son Matthew, and completed at least 10 bike races with his son Steven.

On every anniversary of his transplant, Klausner would walk on the Jones Beach boardwalk. 

In 2012, he released a memoir, “Never Say Never: A Life of Challenges,” and became an advocate for organ donation, working with the Boomer Esiason Foundation and organ donation nonprofit LiveOn NY, and spoke at multiple hospitals.

He was also featured in Season 3 of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy." 

"Gary opened our eyes to the possibility that all CF patients could live a happy and glorious life," Esiason told Newsday. "We will never forget our dear friend, Gary Klausner, and are eternally grateful to have been part of his life."

Klausner wanted to continue his public speaking career and had recently met with experts in Washington, D.C., Steven said.

Steven said their connection was “not typical” of a father-son relationship, because Klausner treated him and his brother as contemporaries.

They would have deep conversations about finance, politics and taxes. When the family refinanced their house, he had Steven sit in on meetings to be financially literate.

“It was really important to my dad that Matthew and I knew to take care of ourselves,” said Steven.

Klausner was a constant supporter of his family; he was the first person Steven told about his sexuality. He was also the coach of “just about every athletic club in Plainview.”

“He never said no,” said Steven. “Anything that could be done to make my life and Matthew’s life and my mom's life easier, my dad did.”

A funeral will be held Sunday at 1 p.m. at Gutterman's Woodbury Chapel in Woodbury.

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