Gary Perina, founder of longtime Michigan automotive parts supplier Lucerne International Inc., died Tuesday. He was 73.
Perina died in his suburban Detroit home from complications related to triple bypass surgery he underwent eight months ago, said his daughter and Lucerne CEO Mary Buchzeiger.
“He had been doing good and everything was good, so this was kind of sudden for us,” Buchzeiger said.
Shortly after his death, Lucerne posted a memorial on its website that reads: “Gary embodied a love for life that could be seen when he was with his family, on the manufacturing floor at Lucerne and taking a swing on the golf course.”
Perina spent the early part of his career at General Motors before leaving in 1984 and pursuing his passion as a “serial entrepreneur,” Buchzeiger said. He founded Lucerne in 1993 and built it into a $ 40 million company with more than 40 employees. Perina retired in 2008, when his daughter took over the Auburn Hills, Mich.-based company. He still frequented the office, offering supplier wisdom and home-cooked meals.
“He would bring in giant pans of food and bowls of chili twice a week and just take care of everyone and be a father to everyone,” Buchzeiger said.
One of the first lessons Perina taught his daughter is one to which she credits her success: hard work. Starting at 8 years old, Buchzeiger would wake up at 6 a.m. each morning and go to work with her father.
“If you don’t work, nothing will” was his mantra, she said.
When she took the reins at Lucerne, her father gave her a small wooden box he kept on his desk for years. The outside posed the question: “What is the secret to success?” Inside was the one-word answer: “Work.”
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“His unmatchable work ethic will remain part of the DNA that will drive Lucerne forward under the direction of his daughter, Mary,” the company said on its website. “We will deeply miss Gary, as a boss, friend, father and mentor.”
Perina is survived by son Gary Perina Jr.; daughter Mary Buchzeiger; his companion of 10 years Greta Ortelas; brother David Perina; four grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife Diane, son Mark and brothers William and Thomas Perina.
Visitation is scheduled for 3-5 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. Friday and a rosary service at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Lewis E. Wint & Son Funeral Home in Clarkston.
Funeral mass is set for 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Anne Catholic Church in Ortonville. The Rite of Committal will be at Ottawa Park Cemetery in Independence Township.
Memorial donations can be made to Warren, Mich.-based nonprofit Winning Futures or Detroit Cristo Rey High School.
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