Warren Luhrs was not the type of man who surrounded himself with “yes men.” Instead, the man who co-founded Hunter and Silverton with his brother, John, chose to be around straight-shooting people with integrity.
That’s according to past Luhrs president Roger Yarborough, who told Soundings that the Sept. 18 death of the 69-year-old Luhrs was a complete shock to everyone who knew him and a tragic loss of a great man.
“He had a massive heart attack; it was totally unexpected and he didn’t recover,” Yarborough said. “He was going over to someone’s house when it happened. Warren was a real health nut, too. He did all the right things. He was 69 and a very young 69.”
There had been few details about Luhrs’ death because his wife, Linda, wanted to wait until after his funeral. “Warren’s family was very private,” said Yarborough, who has worked with Luhrs since 1988.
Luhrs spent as much time as possible with his wife and eight children, Yarborough said. He also spent a lot of time at his businesses, addressing the majority of workers by their first name.
“He was very well-respected and well-liked,” Yarborough said. “He walked the floor. He was a very hands-on person. He was a very creative, very innovative man. He had great integrity and had a structure about his life that demanded integrity from himself and people around him. He surrounded himself with people who were honest with him. He did not surround himself by yes men. He wanted the facts and nothing but the facts.”
Besides Luhrs’ passion for sailing, he was an outdoorsman who spent time in the wilderness, Yarborough said. “He was very much a gentleman. He never said a foul word. You couldn’t ask for anything better in an employer.”
Luhrs continued to be involved in the operations of the St. Augustine Marine Center, his one remaining business after Hunter Marine and the Luhrs Marine Group, which included Mainship and Silverton, declared bankruptcy.
Yarborough said the bankruptcy affected both brothers “horribly.”
“He and his brother John continued to pour money in those companies until there was no salvaging it. It wasn’t because of lack of effort on their part. The Luhrs Marine Group, in my estimation, became a victim of its own success,” Yarborough said.
When the downturn struck, the brothers honored obligations by buying back inventory from dealers, of which there was a lot across the five brands. “In reality, they tried probably five years longer than they should’ve to keep it going,” he said.
Seeing the companies sold off was “one of the tougher things they ever faced,” Yarborough said. “It was more than just a business. It was their life.”
“For all of his achievements and accomplishments, if I had to use one word to describe Warren, I would use the word humble,” Yarborough said. “It’s very seldom you hear an employee say I love my employer, but I really did. He was that kind of person. I can’t say anything bad about him.”
— Reagan Haynes