William Dunlap could charm anyone, friends and family members say. A retired CEO of Campbell Mithun, once Minneapolis' largest advertising agency, Dunlap befriended everyone from CEOs of huge corporations to his employees at every level.
"He could converse with anyone, from a janitor to a billionaire," said his wife, JoAnne Pastel of Wayzata. "You could put him in any setting and he was able to relate and people loved him."
"When he was starting out at Campbell Mithun, he had pictures and names of everybody in the company and would memorize what people looked like and learn maybe one thing about them, just to get to know everybody," said daughter Brenda Dunlap of Minnetrista.
He dressed casually — "no socks, a ripped sweater and, like, a trucker's hat on his head," Brenda said. "He was down to earth — even after he had all this success in business he was not pretentious."
He "cared deeply for every employee at Campbell Mithun," said Steve Gordon of St. Louis Park, who worked with Dunlap at the agency for more than 30 years. "He'd be down in the mailroom every other day to talk to the guy who delivered the mail, the guy who moved the furniture."
Dunlap died of kidney disease on Jan. 8, in a hospital and surrounded by family. He was 83.
He grew up in Austin, Minn., and attended Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., where he majored in political science and worked at the post office. He married his first wife, Lois-Mary Apple Dunlap, in 1965. They later divorced and he married Pastel.
He graduated in 1960 and took a job as a marketing and sales executive at Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati. In 1968, he was recruited by the United States Postal Service to serve as an assistant postmaster general. He designed several iconic postage stamps, including one featuring astronaut Neil Armstrong stepping onto the moon.
Why the post office? "I think they were looking for someone with marketing smarts," Gordon said. "Bill had marketing smarts."
In 1978, Dunlap was recruited to a leadership position at the Marketing Corporation of America in Westport, Conn., and New York. In 1980, he became president and then CEO of Campbell Mithun, whose clients included 3M, Andersen Windows, General Mills, Dairy Queen, Jeep, Kmart, Sun Country Airlines, United Airlines, and Interstate Bakeries Corp., whose products included Wonder Bread and Hostess Twinkies.
Dunlap was known for forming friendships with leaders of client companies. At parties, he and other business leaders "would go wander off somewhere, fire up cigars and talk about advertising and politics," Gordon said.
Although Dunlap typically didn't get involved in day-to-day interactions with clients, Gordon said, when employees needed advice or support, "he was there for you and he had your back."
Dunlap was also "one of the world's great worrywarts," Gordon said. "He was always brooding: 'Are we doing good work on this account … and what if, and what if?' He looked out in the future, identified bumps in the road and helped us avoid them before we got to them."
One of Dunlap's favorite sayings was, "Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift."
In addition to his wife and daughter Brenda, survivors include sisters Judy Wellhausen of Chaska and Mary Wennes of Thousand Oaks, Calif.; daughters Kristin Dunlap of Red Lodge, Mont., and Leslie Dunlap of Salem, Ore., and Jacqueline, at home; son Billy, at home; and six grandchildren. Services have been held.