The Tragic Death Of Philanthropist Charles E. Entenmann

If you didn't grow up in a house that regularly had a box of Entenmann's baked goods on hand, we're betting you know exactly which house in your neighborhood did. That's because any kid whose parents were nice enough to buy a long, blue-and-white box of crumb cake, chocolate-covered donuts, or swirly twists of icing-drizzled, pecan-topped danish was sure to be one of the more popular kids on the block. While Entenmann's might never have won any prizes for being the healthiest snack, the brand's sweet treats have been gracing kitchens, baby showers, and little league practices for over 120 years... and that's not the only sweet thing about the company, either.

Charles E. Entenmann, who The New York Times reports died last week at the age of 92, was not just the grandson of William Entenmann, founder of the Entenmann's brand, nor was he simply the man who took the popular baked goods from home delivery service to grocery store shelves. He was also a philanthropist, an army veteran, and a science enthusiast — one who ultimately funded a research lab that would create healthcare products for patients with external bleeding. Pretty sweet for a baker from Long Island who earned his stripes by making breakfast pastries.

A sweet, sweet legacy

According to the Entenmann's website, it was 1951 when William Entenmann Jr. passed away, leaving family business to his wife, Martha, and her three sons, one of whom was the late Charles E. Entenmann. Entenmann was the grandson of William Entenmann Sr., a baker from Stuttgart, Germany, who decided to leave his first job in America — at a bread factory — to open his own bakery in Brooklyn. The family's fresh-baked goods were delivered by horse and cart to happy customers around the city, until the family moved to Long Island, where cars eventually replaced horses and a home delivery service turned into a supermarket supplier.

In 1961, Entenmann and his family decided to take things up a notch and built the "largest baking facility of its kind in the U.S.," leading to the sweet success of the blue-and-white box. People reports that by the time Charles, his brothers, and their mother sold the business in 1978, it was worth $233 million. But what did Entenmann do with all that dough? Exactly what his grandfather had done before him — give it to the people. According to Entenmann's obituary, "he funded research to improve water quality and habitats in the Great South Bay." Entenmann also endowed a local hospital to create a cardiac center, and worked to advance research for a "limitless energy source" through his lab. 

He may have started with baked goods, but Charles E. Entenmann has left a legacy that stretches far beyond donuts and crumb cake.