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Mayer memoir

January 25, 2010

Memoir chronicles the life of Nazi Germany refugee and successful Tacoma entrepreneur – Kurt Mayer

Tacoma businessman, philanthropist and community leader, Kurt Mayer, has written a rags to riches story of his life and times. “My Personal Brush with History,” written with Joe Peterson, is a story of hardship, opportunity, triumphs, mistakes, family and faith.“My book is intended to give my grandchildren – ages 12, 10 and 8 – an opportunity to read, later in life, about what many believe has been an incredible journey,” Mayer said. “It can also be a study for those who are interested in the Holocaust and an inspiration for those who wish to prosper financially in business.”(This March, Mayer will be presenting and signing copies of his book at the Fourth Annual Powell and Heller Family Conference on Holocaust Education)

Mayer, now 80, came to America with his parents as a 10 year old Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany on one of the last ships to leave Europe. Many of his family members perished in the Holocaust.

He eventually settled in Tacoma and in 1957 established the first volume home-building company in the area. The company, now known as Mayer Built Homes, specialized in subsidized and affordable housing. Mayer operated the company until 1981, building thousands of single-family homes and multi-family apartment units in Washington, Idaho and Colorado. Today the firm is operated by Mayer’s son, Joe.

“When my generation passes there will no longer be eyewitnesses to an event that may yet be defined as the greatest crime in modern history,” Kurt Mayer wrote. “I am telling my story because we must continue to learn from the lessons of the past.”

Mayer was the first person of the Jewish faith to serve on Pacific Lutheran University’s Board of Regents, serving from 1995 to 2005. He was instrumental in the development of the university’s Holocaust Studies Program.

Mayer’s family was one of two prominent Tacoma area families who funded a $1 million endowed professorship in Holocaust studies at PLU in 2007. The gifts secured the university’s position as one of the premier centers for Holocaust studies in the nation.

The donors are Kurt and Pam Mayer, Joe and Gloria Mayer, Natalie Mayer-Yeager, Nancy Powell, Carol Powell Heller and Harry Heller. Together they have given more than $1 million and have committed to help raise another $1 million to eventually fund a $2 million endowed chair.

The professorship honors the memory of their family and friends who were murdered in the Holocaust.

Kurt Mayer has been involved in numerous civic boards, including the Pierce County Planning Commission, Parkland/Spanaway Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee and the Martin Luther King Housing Development Association.

“My Personal Brush with History” is available now at selected retail outlets including Garfield Book Company at PLU and online through The cost of producing the book has been fully underwritten by Kurt Mayer. All proceeds from book sales go to support the PLU Holocaust Studies Program.