Local philanthropist David Nierenberg named to board of National WWII Museum

Four of his relatives, including father, served in war

By Tom Vogt, Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter

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Did You Know?

A painting of Pearl Harbor done by a former Evergreen Public Schools art teacher is on display at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. Gordon Sage was a Marine serving aboard the USS Maryland when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941. He donated his painting to the museum in 2016.

David Nierenberg has been named to the board of trustees of the National WWII Museum, which honors the memory of those who fought for freedom more than 70 years ago.

For Nierenberg, it’s more than remembering millions who served. He’s also remembering his father, Ted, as well as his Uncle David and Uncle Jay and Aunt Inge.

All four Nierenbergs served in World War II; in addition to volunteering in the British army, Inge represents another aspect of those years that resonates with Nierenberg. His aunt survived the Holocaust.

Nierenberg cited several reasons for joining the board of the New Orleans-based museum, but they start with the family connection.

“My late father volunteered to serve in the armed forces after Pearl Harbor, even though he was underaged. He produced parental consent,” the Clark County resident said. “He wanted to serve in the Navy. They gave recruits a battery of aptitude tests, and learned he was something of a human computer and could do complex math in his head, accurately. They trained him in radar.

“He served on a picket ship destroyer, ahead of the Pacific fleet, to intercept Japanese fighters. He could translate two-dimensional data into three dimensions so pilots would know where to fly.

“There were three brothers and all three volunteered,” said Nierenberg, an investment manager. “David also was in the Navy in the Pacific.”

When older brother Jay flunked his vision exam, he took a different route to the war. He joined the American Field Service, a voluntary ambulance corps. He served with the British army in Northern Africa and Italy.

And that’s how Jay Nierenberg met Inge Gutenberg. The young Jewish woman left Austria right after Nazi Germany annexed her homeland in 1938 and traveled to what was then Palestine. Almost everybody else on Inge’s side of the family perished; one cousin survived the Holocaust.

Inge volunteered to serve in the British army and was a truck driver in North Africa. His parents “met on leave at the Cairo train station,” said Camas resident Ron Nierenberg, a cousin of the new museum trustee.

A family photograph taken in Egypt shows Inge standing in front of the Sphinx. It may have been taken on his parents’ honeymoon, Ron Nierenberg said.

David Nierenberg said that there are other reasons he is happy to join the board of the New Orleans-based museum. His firm has invested in a company built by a New Orleans businessman who was a major museum donor and trustee.

“It was great to reconnect that way,” he said. “I love the city of New Orleans — its music, its culture, its food.”

And there is another family-oriented reason to support the WWII museum, Nierenberg said. There is something about that conflict that the next generation needs to know.

“Even though war is terrible, there are circumstances where it is necessary to go to war in defense of the country and human rights,” Nierenberg said. “It would be hard to find a person after Pearl Harbor who would not say we were fighting a just war.”

Patricia and David Nierenberg have a long record of community involvement. The couple were recognized as the 2007 Philanthropists of the Year by the Community Foundation.