Charles Siegel, 89, of Bryn Mawr, a decorated World War II pilot and merchandiser for 32 years with the former John Wanamaker department-store chain, died Thursday, May 16, of advanced age at his home.
In April 1956, Mr. Siegel was hired as a buyer by Wanamakers, one of the first department stores in the nation. The chain became Hecht's in 1995 and later was absorbed by Macy's.
Mr. Siegel rose to a senior merchandising manager, and from there to vice president for general merchandising.
He supervised a staff of more than 100, including divisional vice presidents, merchandise managers, buyers, and assistant buyers.
At the height of his influence, Mr. Siegel was responsible for merchandising decisions covering clothing and soft goods - 40 percent of the chain's volume of business.
He specialized in menswear, budget store, fashions, accessories, intimate apparel, and cosmetics, and also chose the company's outside vendors who used Wanamakers space to sell their wares.
His family said he pioneered a variety of innovative retailing concepts; under his leadership, the stores enjoyed growth.
After he retired from Wanamakers in 1988, Mr. Siegel accepted a variety of consulting jobs in the areas of retail management, store site selection, and placement of products in retail settings.
Mr. Siegel was active at various times as an officer, director, and trustee for Moss Rehabilitation Hospital, Philadelphia Geriatric Center, Philadelphia Psychiatric Center, Federation of Jewish Agencies, United Fund, and Jewish Community Relations Council.
Born in Lawrence, Mass., he attended Lowell Institute at Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1940 to 1941, and received his bachelor of science degree in business administration in 1948 from Boston University. The year of his graduation, he won the Man of the Year Award and was inducted into the Beta Gamma Sigma National Honor Society.
During World War II, Mr. Siegel was a pilot with the 726th Bombardment Squadron, 451st Bombardment Group.
He served in the Mediterranean, Middle East, and European African theaters from March 12, 1944, to Aug. 12, 1945.
He received the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, a Purple Heart, and the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal. He was honorably discharged in 1962 from the Air Force Reserve with the rank of captain.
After his military service, he returned home and married the former Elaine Promisel.
"My dad really was the embodiment of the Greatest Generation," said his son Eric. "He married his childhood sweetheart, and then worked his way up in business. It really was the American dream."
Surviving, in addition to his son, are another son, Laurence; five grandchildren; and one great-grandson. His wife of 32 years died in 1982.
Services will be at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, May 19, at Joseph Levine & Sons, 4737 Street Rd., Trevose. Interment will follow in Roosevelt Memorial Park, Trevose.
Contributions may be made to the Elaine Promisel Siegel Fund at Dana Farber Cancer Institute, 10 Brookline Place West, Sixth Floor, Brookline, Mass. 02445.
Condolences to the family may be offered at www.levinefuneral.com.