Those who knew David Lugar seem to agree about the legacy he left behind.
When Lugar lost his battle with cancer in 2016, Gene Bissell – former president and CEO of AmeriGas and Lugar’s friend and colleague – remarked that Lugar was “admired as much for his values as for his accomplishments.”
When asked why he nominated Lugar for the LP Gas Hall of Fame, Joe Rose – former president of the Propane Gas Association of New England – echoed Bissell.
“Other than the fact that he did so much,” says Rose, “[Lugar] was such a great guy.”
Lugar’s accomplishments in the propane industry were unique in breadth and significance. After 21 years at Conoco and serving as director of NGL marketing, Lugar joined AmeriGas in 2000 as vice president of supply, logistics and wholesale.
During his tenure at AmeriGas, Lugar managed a team of about 300 employees who were responsible for, as Bissell describes it, “purchasing a billion dollars’ worth of propane from 250 suppliers and delivering it to more than 2,000 locations across the continent, Alaska and Hawaii.”
Lugar led AmeriGas and the industry through moments of crisis, such as a propane supply disruption during the winter of 2013-14, and overcame “hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards and rail strikes to make sure customers could heat their homes and businesses,” says Bissell.
All the while, Lugar served multiple terms with the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) and the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) in various positions and was among a select few individuals to serve as chairman of both NPGA and PERC.
But it was his selflessness and commitment to the greater good of the industry that Lugar’s colleagues believe set him apart.
Lugar “gave and gave of himself for these organizations,” says Rose. “I could call him at any time with a problem, a question, and it may have [had] no direct impact on his current job or company, but if it was for the good of the industry, he always took the time to do the research, answer the questions and try to get something changed.”
Whether he was making people laugh with over-the-top Halloween costumes (Lugar made appearances in the office as a hippie, an 80s’ rock star and a warrior equipped with a broadsword, to name a few) or leading Bible study, Lugar was generous with his time and talent in all areas of his life.
“Whenever he would talk to you,” recalls Rose, “you would feel like you were the most important person he was going to talk to that day, and he always included everybody because he knew that together we could accomplish way more than we could individually.”
Bissell describes Lugar as a “uniter” whose sense of humor had a way of diffusing tension when work got tough and whose personal interest in the well-being of his employees was an inspiration. Bissell remembers Lugar as one of the first people who would call when a policy at AmeriGas changed to ask how it would impact his team. Lugar would worry, for example, about how a new health care policy might affect someone expecting a child or struggling with a chronic illness.
Lugar’s integrity and commitment to others were underpinned by a deep commitment to his faith. He was an active member of his church and participated in mission trips and prayer teams. Bissell says Lugar didn’t talk much about his faith – it was not something he wore on his sleeve – but it clearly guided his actions daily, whether in business or in his personal life.
Lugar raised four children – Kellise, Kylie, Kori and Kole – with his wife Lajan and had nine grandchildren. He loved riding his Harley Davidson for relaxation. He took cross-country trips and led monthly motorcycle rides for members of his church.
It seems particularly unfair when someone who lives so fully gets sick.
“It kicked us all in the gut pretty hard,” says Rose.
Rose exchanged emails with Lugar every week or two until the end of Lugar’s life. Rose remembers that Lugar always asked about how he and his family were doing and was struck by Lugar’s selflessness under such difficult circumstances.
“He just never stopped being a great guy,” recalls Rose, “even at the end.”
Lugar died at the age of 59.
He was posthumously awarded the NPGA’s Distinguished Service Award, the association’s highest honor. The AmeriGas David Lugar Memorial Scholarship was also formed for children of propane industry employees.
His colleagues, friends and family surely felt Lugar was gone too soon and had more to give.
But the example of his life is a lasting gift to the propane industry, a legacy of getting the job done with a bit of humor, a lot of generosity and, above all, with integrity.