Gerald Smale, who was president and CEO of the Young Quinlan department stores in the Twin Cities, died on Aug. 7 at his home in Manhattan Beach, Minn.
He was 86.
Smale, a World War II veteran who was seriously wounded in combat, began in the clothing business when he was a West High School student.
The Young Quinlan stores offered high-quality women's and men's fashions, with lots of personal service. And Smale, who led the firm's five metro area stores, was cut out for the work, said his longtime executive secretary, Barbara Nylen of Minneapolis.
He was as gracious to his employees as he was to his customers, greeting everyone in the morning and bidding them a good night.
"He was last out the door," Nylen said.
His son Gerald Smale of Eagan said he was an outstanding merchant who supported his employees.
"He knew virtually everybody's name, even if it was a new employee," his son said.
Nylen said Smale's "fabulous sense of humor" was an asset. At the same time, he paid attention to detail and customer service.
When he was an executive, busy tailors and sales clerks would find him pitching in to help. After hours, he'd make deliveries, if need be.
"He just wanted that merchandise to get into the customer's hands," Nylen said.
In 1940, he went to work for the old Rothschild's clothing store in Minneapolis, beginning as a stock boy and window dresser. He graduated from West High in 1942, and entered the Army, rising to the rank of staff sergeant.
In 1944 in Germany, his tank was hit, his crewmen were killed, and he was riddled with shrapnel in his leg, back and shoulder. He faced a long recovery in several hospitals and at home, said his grandson-in-law, Steve Tietz of St. Paul.
For his injuries, he received the Purple Heart.
Family and friends said he was a good storyteller and liked to tell quirky jokes. Nylen said he didn't talk about the war, unless it was to tell an amusing or positive anecdote, such as the fun the GIs had liberating Paris, with glasses of wine being passed out.
After the war, Smale rejoined Rothschild's, a firm that bought Young Quinlan. By 1970, he had risen to president and CEO. During his career, Young Quinlan changed hands a couple more times, and it closed its doors in 1985.
He played leadership roles in Aquatennial festivities and civic groups such as the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce.
He retired in 1984, enjoying lakeside living, always ready to entertain his visiting grandchildren.
In addition to son Gerald, he is survived by his wife of 65 years, Bonnie, of Manhattan Beach; another son, Jeffery, of Seal Beach, Calif.; 10 grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. today at Crosslake Lutheran Church, Crosslake, Minn. Visitation will be held at 10 a.m. at the church.