On 28 Oct 2009, a very good and generous man, Herbert Selig “Kelly” Lichtenberg passed away at age 76. He left us way too soon and was buried on 30 Oct 2009 with full military honors at West Point, a place he loved very much and supported in so many ways.
Kelly was born in Brooklyn, NY, on 15 Mar 1933, the son of Sam and Martha Lichtenberg. Kellys parents were well known to his classmates. They often invited classmates to meals at the Hotel Thayer and brought lots of “boodle” on their frequent visits. Their generosity to others set an example for Kelly that he followed throughout his life.
As a cadet, Kelly was active in the Jewish Chapel Choir. Upon graduation, he selected the Air Force. In 1958, he resigned his commission to join his brother Alan ’51, in his father’s home furnishings firm, re-named S. Lichtenberg and Sons. Most importantly, in 1958, Kelly was married to the love of his life, Trudy, and they began a happy life together that lasted 51 years until Kelly’s untimely death.
Kelly's overall generosity and significant support to West Point are legendary. In the early 1960s he organized tailgate events on home football weekends. These events had grown to the point where some 500-700 classmates, cadets and their parents, members of the Academy staff and faculty, various coaching staffs, and supporting staff attended. Everyone and anyone was welcomed as family by both Kelly and Trudy. In recognition of his generosity, West Point dedicated the area of the Holleder Center where the tail-gates are held as the Lichtenberg Memorial Terrace.
Kelly’s contributions to West Point were truly significant. His support of religious programs began in 1961. Kelly recognized the need for a dedicated West Point Jewish Chapel and began to organize a small group of Jewish West Point graduates to pursue that dream. By personal contribution and dedicated fund raising, the seven million dollars needed to erect the chapel was raised, principally through Kelly’s vision and perseverance. The chapel was completed in 1984 and stands today as a testimonial to the drive, generosity, and dedication of Kelly Lichtenberg. The West Point Jewish Chapel Fund (WPJCF), through which the money was raised, continues today as a major part of cadet religious life.
Through the WPJCF, Kelly, along with others, have contributed monies to construct a “Founders Garden” adjacent to the Jewish Chapel; to renovate Building 147 to serve as a cadet interfaith religious center, to repair the floors for Most Holy Trinity Chapel; to install an improved sound system for the Cadet Chapel; to purchase a pipe organ from Vassar College and install the pipes in the Cadet and Old Cadet Chapels; to design an air conditioning system for Most Holy Trinity Chapel; and to renovate windows, the floor and pews in the Old Cadet Chapel. Rest assured that Kelly was the major contributor and guiding force behind all these activities.
In the late 1990s, Kelly responded to the superintendents wish to have an indoor tennis facility built as part of the bicentennial campaign. Kelly and the Class of ’55 jointly funded the Lichtenberg Tennis Center, and it served as their 50th reunion gift to West Point. This facility won the U.S. Tennis Association outstanding facility award in 1999. About this time, Kelly learned of the need to construct a dedicated gymnastics facility. He, along with Lou Gross ’54, combined their energy and resources to fund and construct the Gross Sports Facility, which was opened in 2001.
Kelly’s generosity and support of West Point was not nearly done. He assumed the lead role in funding and construction of nine sets of new quarters for coaches. His leadership skills encouraged others to support this important project, and in honor of his leadership and the Class of ’55s support, this housing area was named the “Class of 1955” housing area.
In 2006 the West Point Association of Graduates took great pride in presenting the 2006 Distinguished Graduate Award to this dedicated son of West Point. No one more clearly deserved this honored recognition, and no one more appreciated the honor and significance of the award.
Through the years, while all these activities took place, Kelly was leading a growing business and garnering a superb reputation for business acumen and integrity. He received many awards for business and gained a worldwide reputation as an outstanding leader in the home furnishings community.
Kelly’s interest in his business and his alma mater was only trumped by the love, dedication, and support that he gave to his wonderful family. His wife Trudy was a partner in all his activities and willingly joined with him in the support that he gave to West Point. Their two sons, Scott and Michael, were well trained by Kelly in both business and dedicated humanitarian causes. Scott and Michael now run the business started by their grandfather and grown by their father and uncle. They both have indicated their interest in continuing the long tradition of Lichtenberg-sponsored tailgates at home football games. What a joy it will be and what a memory of their father for them to sponsor these events at the Lichtenberg Memorial Terrace. The love that Scott and Michael have for their father was evident in the remarks that they made at Kelly’s memorial service held on 30 Oct 2009 at the Jewish Community Center in Harrison, NY. They both gave heartfelt but humorous accounts of their relationship with their father. Kelly also took great joy in his relationship with Scott and Michael’s wives, Lucy and Lisa.
Kelly’s pride was evident in the love he expressed for his five grandchildren: Andrew, Carolyn, Lauren, Claudia, and Emily. The love, respect, and admiration they all had for their grandfather was so evident.
A good and generous husband, father, grandfather, and humanitarian has left us. This dedicated son of West Point will long be remembered by his friends, classmates, and scores of cadets past, present, and future. He was truly one of a kind!
—Written with great respect by, classmate and friend Bud Goldstein