Those who knew Michael Ludwig, the business manager at the Citibank branch on Broadway in Hewlett, are still in shock over his sudden death on March 22, while he was celebrating his 60th birthday in Jamaica.
“He hadn’t been away in 15 years,” said Hewlett-Woodmere Business Association President Jaime Wysocki. “We had been texting the whole time while he was on vacation, and he was sending me picture-messages telling me how much he needed the vacation. I wrote to him Friday morning and didn’t hear back until Friday night, when his wife called.”
According to Wysocki, an autopsy revealed that Ludwig, a Little Neck resident, had an enlarged heart and died quickly. “It puts our hearts at ease a little because he didn’t suffer,” she said.
Ludwig was born in Honolulu, and graduated from Holy Cross High School in Flushing. He was a dock builder and carpenter before he began working at Citibank in Hewlett.
He was also the treasurer of the Hewlett-Woodmere Business Association and opened a company with Wysocki, Welcome Home Improvement, two and a half months ago. “After Sandy, we decided to open that business together,” she said. “And I plan to continue that business.”
Anthony Campanile, of Tony’s Decorating and Upholstering Inc. in Hewlett, met Ludwig a year ago, when the Hewlett Business Association merged with the Woodmere Merchants Association. “We instantaneously became friends through the association, but also socially,” Campanile said. “I felt like I’ve known him my whole life, and I could trust him.”
Campanile spoke with Ludwig on the phone almost every morning, the two discussing matters concerning the business association and just chatting about life in general. “He was a great guy and always had a smile on his face,” Campanile said. “He was diligent as a treasurer and was a real jovial guy. My heart is broken.”
Wysocki said that Ludwig often reminded her of Santa Claus — he was jolly and had no enemies. “I always teased him about that; I told him if his job didn’t work out he could always be a mall Santa,” she said. “Everyone loved him, and he would do anything for anyone.”
The owner of the Woodmere-based Wedding Dress Couture, Vassa Halatas, like Campanile, met Ludwig through the business association. “He had a good soul and though he was quiet, he had a heart of gold,” she said.
Halatas added that she would miss Ludwig’s presence the most. “I’m devastated and still in shock,” she said. “I hope that his family can heal day by day and through these tough times, remember the good. He was an amazing person and brought so much joy to others.”
Wysocki and other members of the business association continue to come to terms with the loss of their friend. “We used to meet for a bagel in the morning, lunch, dinner or a drink; he was always around town and with us every day,” she said. “It’s still very hard and hasn’t hit us yet.”
The business association will forgo its annual installation breakfast and instead hold a memorial for Ludwig, with the proceeds to be given to his family. He is survived by his wife, Sandy, and two daughters, Erin Spicer (Bobby) and Kate.
Tickets for the breakfast can be purchased for $40 on the association’s website, www.HWBA.org, or at the door for $50. It will be held on April 14, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Woodmere Club, at 99 Meadow Drive in Woodmere.