This story was written by Werner’s granddaughter Beckie Moses
Werner Herbert Gumpertz of West Newton, Massachusetts died on Friday, December 1, 2017. He passed peacefully while holding his wife Susan’s hand and surrounded by his family.
Werner was born on December 26, 1917 in Berlin, Germany to his parents Richard and Olga Gumpertz. His younger brother, the late Gerard “Mohamed” Gumpertz, was born four years later.
One thing was clear from an early age: Werner was born to be an engineer. He was particularly fascinated with trains and railway systems. One of his most beloved pastimes was setting up his electric railroads during the holidays—a tradition that continued throughout his life.
After completing high school, Werner moved to Zurich, Switzerland in 1936 to attend the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. He traveled to Amsterdam during the summer of 1939 to do volunteer engineering work. World War II broke out later that year and he was unable to return to Switzerland to complete his last year of engineering school. That year and those that followed were a time of worry and heartbreak for Werner and his family. His parents still lived in Germany during Kristallnacht and Richard was sent to Dachau Concentration Camp. Olga bribed the Gestapo with jewelry to free Richard, after which he fled to Holland to join Werner. Soon after, Werner convinced Richard to get visas and leave for the United States as soon as possible. Werner and Richard arrived in New York City on the Red Star Line’s Westernland on March 12, 1940. Olga and Gerry joined them in New York City in 1941.
In 1943, Werner was drafted into the U.S. Army. He completed his training at Camp Ritchie’s Military Intelligence Training Center. Werner went on to become an Army Intelligence Officer, serving overseas in Germany. He was later recruited by the U.S. Military Government and sent to Switzerland to identify and eliminate Nazi ideology from book publications. He led a distinguished military career and took great pride in serving his country.
Werner began his engineering career at MIT in 1947. He earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and advanced engineering degrees there and later joined the Department of Building Engineering and Construction as an instructor.
Werner also met his colleagues Howard Simpson and Frank Heger at MIT, with whom Werner would build Simpson Gumpertz & Heger (SGH)—a multinational engineering firm. SGH was one of Werner’s proudest accomplishments and he was actively involved with the firm until the end of his life. His love of engineering, teaching and learning, and giving opportunities to young engineers is embedded into the fabric of the company.
Mutual friends introduced Werner to Elizabeth “Betty” Lewit in 1949. Both quickly realized that they had met their match and were engaged within two weeks. They were married on Thanksgiving that year and shared fifty years of a happy marriage until Betty passed away in 1999.
Werner and Betty purchased their house in West Newton in 1951, the home that Werner would call his for the rest of his life. They had two children—Richard “Rick” Gumpertz and Ruth (Gumpertz) Moses. The family enjoyed many trips to Europe, Sunday rides, playful rough-housing, and baking cookies with extended family during the holidays.
Rick had two daughters—Katie and Valerie, and Ruth had two daughters—Beckie and Samantha. Werner adored his granddaughters and they him. They cherish memories of building gingerbread houses, refinishing old tools from his tremendous collection, and listening to stories about his childhood, the war, his travels, his life.
In 2000, Werner got a second chance at love with Susan Connors. Susan was the tenant in the upstairs unit of Werner’s two-family. Both Susan and Werner had recently lost their spouses and as Werner put it, “Now both Susan and I rattled around the house, on separate levels of a house too big for us.” A spark struck between them on an outing to buy a new refrigerator for Susan. The two would go on to share a beautiful marriage filled with love, respect, loyalty, and admiration. As Werner said of their relationship, “In my eyes this love story is not a coincidence, but a miracle.”
Werner is survived by his wife, Susan Connors; his children, Richard Gumpertz and Ruth Moses; his granddaughters, Katie Bell, Valerie Gokhfeld, Beckie Moses, and Samantha Moses; his son and daughter-in-law, Joel Moses and Karen Rowinsky; as well as members of the Gumpertz, Block, Connors, Lawless, Perrone, and Suech families, and the immeasurable number of friends and colleagues who were lucky to know him. Werner was looking forward to becoming a great-grandfather in 2018.Werner left an indelible mark on each person he touched and his absence will never cease to be felt.
Many of the details shared above were pulled from Werner’s Odyssey: Berlin to Boston, written and compiled by Babette Kahn Rittmeyer.
Services will be held at The Wilson Chapel, 234 Herrick Rd., Newton Centre on Wednesday December 6, 2017 at 1:00pm.Interment to follow at Newton Cemetery. In lieu of flowers remembrances may be made to BIDMC Cardiac MR Center, c/o Dr. Warren Manning, 330 Brookline Ave, Boston, MA 02115 or Stoneman Center for Research and Education in Quality improvement ,c/o Dr. Mark Aronson, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center,330 Brookline Ave, Boston, MA 02115.