Stuart Komer died peacefully in Florida on Thursday, May 24, 2018, with his family by his side. Stu was an entrepreneur and philanthropist who built Elmira-based Artistic Greetings, Inc. (NASDAQ: ARTG) into an American success story over the course of 33 years.
Stuart was born on March 23, 1926, to the late Bernard and Frances Komer in Detroit, MI; a town he left in body, but never in spirit. He is survived by, among others, his loving wife of over 23 years, Judith White Komer. Stuart was predeceased by his beloved first wife Betty Fidelman Komer of Elmira, his son Bernard Michael Komer, as well as his sister and his brother in law, Barbara and Manford Rosenbloom, Anthony Trogan, his nephew in law, his sister in law Barbara Rosenburg, and brother in law Ralph Rosenberg.
Stuart is survived by his daughters, Linda Polan (granddaughter, Betsy) of Encino, CA, and Susan Robbins (Harry) of Palm Beach Gardens, FL. His grandchildren from his son Bernie are Brian, Benjamin and Berry. His stepchildren from his wife Judy are Thomas Wyckoff (Kathy), Elizabeth Sullivan (Paul), Jennifer Sullivan (Peter) and Catherine Murray (Kevin). His grandchildren from Judy’s children are Morgan, Clinton and George Wyckoff (Tom), Wilson, Callan, Declan, Delaney and Ford Sullivan (Beth), Olivia, Finnegan, Maeve and Mairead Sullivan (Jennie), and Ashley, Nathan and Riley Murray (Cathy).
Stuart is also survived by his sister in law, Deborah Schaack (Bard) and their children and grandchildren Diana Schaack (Ari) and Stephen Schaack (Courtney (Olivia and Eleanor)). Also surviving are Stu’s brother-in-law, Philip H. White (Elliott (Lindsay) and Helen), as well as his niece, Barbara Leib (Joel), their children, Cheryl Stern (Ronald (Nathaniel, Samuel and Jonah)), Lisa Klein (Danny (Sydney and Hannah)) and Eric Leib (Jodi (Morgan and Noah)), and by his nieces Bernice Trogan (Christina) and Beth Ann Brown (Ashley and Lindsay), and cousin Dena Komer.
Stuart was the Chief Executive of Artistic from 1965 until the Company was sold in 1998. Artistic struggled in its early years but by 1985 in a Business Week cover story, it named Artistic the “Best Little Growth Company in America”. Thereafter and into the 90’s, Stuart turned the Company into a flourishing enterprise averaging annual sales of over $100 million dollars and employing more than 1,400 people in Elmira. It was during this late period in the Company’s history when the former Gorton Coy building at the corner of Main and Water in Elmira was christened The Komer Center, in honor of all that Stuart had contributed to the revitalization of downtown Elmira. Artistic also purchased the former Diven Plaza in Horseheads during this time and repurposed that 140,000 square foot facility into the largest bank-check manufacturing facility in the Northeast.
Stuart’s expressed belief was that something good will always come from challenging circumstances. From his early years working with his father’s soft-drink bottling company “Sweet Sixteen”, Stuart learned many valuable lessons, including how to treat people with respect, the importance of helping others and giving back to the community. As a result, as he moved through his life and no matter how small or large his company was, Stu always kept his door open to everyone. He gave much of himself and asked for little.
Stuart was a sportsman; mainly baseball and football, and later on, golf was a passion. He graduated from Ohio State after a stint in the Navy. At OSU Stuart was a member of the track, baseball, and football teams, which ultimately led to a position as catcher for the St. Louis Browns. During his tenure as a major league baseball player, Stu had occasion to play for the Elmira Pioneers; a bid that introduced him to the City of Elmira and led to his position as athletic director of Horseheads HS. During that time, he married Betts Fidelman of Elmira and came to work with her father at what was then called “Artistic Cards”. When later asked about his time as a major league baseball player, Stu would commonly say: “yep, I had a cup of coffee in the majors, and it tasted wonderful while it lasted”.
Stuart was an active and committed servant to the Elmira community. He was a member of several Boards and was especially proud of his sponsored health seminars such as the Betts F. Komer Cancer Seminars, which were held at Arnot Ogden Medical Center for over 25 years. Stu was a long standing-member of the Board of Managers of Arnot Ogden Medical Center, and a Trustee of Alfred University, Elmira College, Keuka College and the University of New Hampshire Business School. He served as a director for The Arnot Art Museum, The Elmira Symphony and Chorale Society, Southern Tier Economic Growth, the Industrial Development Association, Hospice, Peace by Piece, Huck Finn, The Downtown Health Club, was an active member of both Temple B’nai Israel and Congregation Shomray Hadath, and served as a director of The Jewish Welfare Fund and The Jewish Community Center.
Stuart was named Man of the Year in 1993 by the Jewish Community in Elmira. In 1994, he was named Entrepreneur for the Year in Western New York, and was a member of the United Way of Chemung County becoming its Chairman in 1998. Stu was a member of the Elmira, Lakeside and Atlantis Country Clubs, as well as the Elmira City Club.
During retirement, Stu and his constant companion wife Judy, spent the summers on Keuka Lake and their winters in Florida where they played golf and bridge, attended sporting events and programs at both The Clemens Center and The Kravis Center in West Palm Beach. Stuart had a zest for life and always energized any room entered. He loved and cherished his time with his wife Judy, his family and his friends.
Stuart will greatly be missed by all those who knew him, and will be remembered with love and respect for how he lived his life.
Services will be held in Elmira at Congregation Kol Ami at 11 AM on Thursday, May 31st with interment to follow at Temple B’nai Israel Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, please consider donations to:
“Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes, Inc. Stuart Komer Family Student Aid Fund”, “Arnot Health Foundation”, or “Congregation Kol Ami Building Fund”.