Werner "Gene" Neuburger lost his parents in the Holocaust and at 3 years old was sent from his native Germany to live with an aunt and uncle in Manhattan.
His daughter, Jenny Higgins, of Commack, said he learned early that any success he might achieve would be through his hard work alone. "Although he grew up with his aunt and uncle, he essentially was on his own," Higgins, 31, said.
Neuburger, who eventually owned a series of auto stores, died Wednesday of heart illness at Huntington Hospital. He was 74.
Neuburger, who for more than 30 years lived in Dix Hills and before that Westbury, started as a one-man operation in the mid-1950s, selling auto parts from the trunk of his car to service stations and repair shops.
He opened his first parts store, Nuby's Auto Inc., in Hempstead in 1967. Over nearly 30 years, the business grew to 13 AID Auto franchises, 10 of them on Long Island. Neuburger sold the franchises to the parent company in 1996.
Higgins said her father's way of connecting to people was using his "great sense of humor. He always tried to make people laugh," she said. He also had his share of favorite sayings, including, not surprisingly, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."
Neuburger always had time for family, Higgins said, especially in his later years.
At the gatherings, Neuburger passed out family calendars that he had made, filled with old photographs. He also had highlighted the birthdays and anniversaries of his children and grandchildren.
Higgins said her father gained a sense of closure last year, when he returned to Germany for the first time since his infancy.
He visited his hometown, where he met with people who knew his parents, she said.
"That was very emotional for him. All his life, he really did not have much of a connection to family in Germany or his parents. So that meant a lot," Higgins said.
In addition to Higgins, Neuburger is survived by sons Jim Neuburger of Farmingdale, Dan Neuburger of Allendale, N.J., Ken Neuburger of Coram and Bobby Siracusa of Florida; daughter Michele Walsh of Westbury; and 11 grandchildren.
His wife, Lenore, died in 1998.
A memorial service is noon Friday at I.J. Morris funeral home, Dix Hills, followed by burial at New Montefiore Cemetery, Farmingdale.