Joseph R. Liss, 95, of Bala Cynwyd, owner of Michel's Bakery, a private-label company supplying supermarkets and food services with baked goods, died Wednesday, Dec. 15, at home.
Mr. Liss grew up with seven siblings in Strawberry Mansion. His father was a flour broker, and his four brothers owned bakeries. He graduated from Simon Gratz High School, attended Temple University, and made deliveries and did bookkeeping for his brothers' bakeries.
He was a good businessman, his daughter Kathy Drew said. He had a lifetime interest in the stock market, and when he graduated from high school in 1934, in the midst of the Depression, his luck with investments was noted in the yearbook, she said.
During World War II, Mr. Liss served in the Coast Guard in Philadelphia.
After the war, he bought Michel's Bakery, a retail business in Strawberry Mansion that had been established in 1898.
There he met his future wife, Betty Cohen, who managed the bakery office. They married in 1950 and worked side by side until she died in 2009, their daughter said.
Mr. Liss converted Michel's Bakery into a wholesale operation and moved the business to East Falls. In the early 1960s, the company made front-page news when a freight-train boxcar fell off the tracks and plunged into the bakery's roof. Employees had not come to work yet, and no one was hurt.
Despite the damage, the bakery did not miss a single delivery, Drew said.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Mr. Liss made custom wedding and bar mitzvah cakes for Jewish caterers. Over the years, he expanded his business, acquiring several baking companies. In 1988 he consolidated operations in a new facility in Northeast Philadelphia.
Though Michel's Bakery is now run by his son, Jon, Mr. Liss went to the plant every day until two weeks ago, his daughter said. He often encouraged former employees to start their own business, including Russell T. Bundy, owner of a bakery equipment company in Cleveland. In honor of Mr. Liss' 95th birthday in January, Bundy made a donation to the Bakers' National Education Fund.
Mr. Liss was a generous contributor to Jewish charities and offered a hand to anyone who needed help, his daughter said.
"He was a gentle man; everyone loved him," she said, including the staff at Murray Delicatessen in Bala Cynwyd, where he ate dinner every night. He always ordered the same thing: brisket, french fries, tomatoes and challah, Drew said.
In addition to his daughter and son, Mr. Liss is survived by another daughter, Tobie Bardsley, and five grandchildren.
A service was held Friday, Dec. 17, at Congregation Adath Israel in Merion. Burial was in Har Zion Cemetery, Collingdale.
Donations may be made to Alyn Hospital Jerusalem, American Friends of Alyn Hospital, 51 E. 42d St., Suite 308, New York, N.Y. 10017.