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WSJ Obituaries

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发表于 3-18-2023 12:40:03 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式
(1) James R Hagerty, Robert L Waltrip. 1931-2023. Texan Made Funerals into a Big Business. Wall Street Journal, Mar 18, 2023, at page A12.
https://www.wsj.com/articles/rob ... -at-age-92-aa4d18ea
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As a boy living upstairs from his father’s funeral parlor in Houston, Robert L. Waltrip got early lessons in respect for the grieving. For instance, he learned that bouncing a ball on the floor was inappropriate when a funeral was in progress downstairs.

After taking over that family business, he innovated. Mr. Waltrip noticed that his employees and hearses were idle most of the time as they waited for the phone to ring. His solution was to acquire more funeral homes in Houston and have them share personnel and equipment.

Then Mr. Waltrip began buying funeral homes across the U.S. and in Canada. The company he founded, Service Corp. International, or SCI, calls itself the “largest provider of deathcare products and services” in North America. It owns nearly 1,500 funeral-service locations and 500 cemeteries.

Mr. Waltrip discovered early on that he shouldn’t stamp a single name on funeral homes nationwide. Customers wanted to deal with a long-established local name, not an international brand.

One thing he couldn’t understand was why more people didn’t buy shares in SCI. “People that don’t buy our stock just don’t like money,” he told the New York Times in 1993. “It’s the greatest buy I’ve ever seen. People are always going to die.”

Mr. Waltrip died Feb. 27. He was 92 years old.

Robert L. Waltrip was born Jan. 10, 1931, and grew up in Houston. His father, Robert E. Waltrip, had purchased a struggling funeral home in the 1920s. As a teenager, the younger Mr. Waltrip sometimes drove the hearse. He played quarterback on his high-school football team and then enrolled at Rice University [1912- ; private; based in Houston]. After transferring to the University of Houston [1927- ; public], he earned a degree in business.

While still a college student, he helped run the family funeral business. “I always wanted to be a funeral director,” he said later. “I can’t remember a time when I wanted to do anything else.”

Mr. Waltrip built or acquired more funeral homes in Houston and founded what became SCI in 1962. Many bankers recoiled at the idea of lending to a funeral business, whose collateral might be little more than a hearse and a stack of coffins. Even so, SCI swiftly expanded to other cities and went public in 1969.

“I kept thinking there was a better way to utilize people and equipment because that was the major cost of doing business,” Mr. Waltrip told the Houston Chronicle. Clusters of funeral homes in metro areas could share a single chilled space to handle embalming and temporary storage of bodies. Those facilities were dubbed “central prep,” the Palm Beach Post reported.

A diversification into the manufacture of caskets in the 1980s didn’t work out, partly because rival funeral-home operators didn’t want to buy supplies from SCI.

But aging owners of local funeral homes, finding their children uninterested in taking over, often were willing to sell their firms to SCI. Eventually, SCI was competing in a buying frenzy with other chains, including Loewen Group Inc., based in Canada.

In the mid-1990s, Mr. Waltrip described SCI’s acquisition pace as “pedal to the metal.” The company made major acquisitions in the U.S., Australia, Britain and France, along with smaller ones in Asia and South America. Overloaded with debt, SCI reported losses in the early 2000s. The company sold its overseas operations and some of its less-successful North American properties.

Overseeing funeral homes scattered around the country was complicated, and there were occasional scrapes with regulators. In 1976, the Federal Trade Commission ordered SCI to refund money to thousands of people said to have been overcharged for funeral expenses, including flowers and choirs. The agency also said some funeral homes owned by SCI had falsely claimed that caskets were required for cremations, United Press International reported in 1976.

Mr. Waltrip had a pilot’s license and owned a ranch in Colorado. His survivors include three children, six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. His wife of 66 years, Claire H. Waltrip, died in 2018.

In 1992, Mr. Waltrip founded the National Museum of Funeral History in Houston. Highlights include antique hearses, coffins from Ghana and exhibits on the history of embalming and Japanese funeral rituals. He also founded the Lone Star Flight Museum, now also based in Houston.

During Mr. Waltrip’s lifetime, funerals became more like any other business, with a heavy dose of marketing and financial engineering. He occasionally had a reminder for colleagues who didn’t grow up in a funeral home: “Son, don’t ever forget the reason the phone rang is because somebody’s mama died.”
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 楼主| 发表于 3-18-2023 12:40:36 | 显示全部楼层
(2) Chieko Tsuneoka, Masatoshi Ito. 1924-2023. Japanese Retailer Took over 7-Eleven.  Wall Street Journal, Mar 18, 2023, at page A12.
https://www.wsj.com/articles/mas ... dies-at-98-76bfc3ab

Note:
(a)
(i) Masatoshi Itō  伊藤 雅俊
(ii) The asterisks in front pf a paragraph signifies that the online paragraph does not make it to print.
(b) Itō-Yōkado Co, Ltd  株式会社イトー ヨーカ堂
(i) イトー (where the dash signifies a long vowel) is katakana for Itō.
(ii) About Yōkado ヨーカ堂, the ja.wikipedia.org for "イトーヨーカ堂" says:

section 2 歴史, section 2.1 創業: "イトーヨーカ堂の起源は名誉会長 故:伊藤雅俊の母親・伊藤ゆきの弟にあたる吉川敏雄が、東京市浅草区(現:東京都台東区浅草)に「羊華堂洋品店」を1920年(大正9年)に開業したことに遡る。   名称は吉川が未年生まれであることと、当時銀座で繁盛していた「日華堂」の華の字から命名した。この羊華堂は後に繁盛したため、吉川と14歳の差がある伊藤譲が手伝い始め、浅草・千住・荻窪に3店舗あるうちの浅草の一店をのれん分けする。   譲の弟・伊藤雅俊 * * * "
(A) Japanese-English dictionary:
* hijuji toshi 未年; ひつじ年 【ひつじどし】 (n): "year of the Sheep"  
* norenwake 暖簾分け; のれん分け 【のれんわけ】 (n,v): "helping a long-term employee to establish a branch of the same shop"
   ^ The noren 暖簾 is a fabric hanging over the doorway.
   https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/暖簾
(n) my rough translation: 伊藤雅俊の母親 Yuki Itō had a younger brother 吉川敏雄, who opened 羊華堂洋品店 in 1920 in the presently Asakusa neighborhood of 東京都台東区. The store name came from a then prosperous business 日華堂. 吉川 substituted 日 for 羊, because she was a sheep born in sheep year. Later 吉川 succeeded himself and owned 3 stores of 羊華堂. He sold 浅草 store to 伊藤譲, 14 years younger than he. 伊藤譲's younger was 伊藤雅俊.
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TOKYO—Masatoshi Ito’s retail career started in 1946 at a 71-square-foot family shop in Tokyo that sold knitted underwear in the bombed-out Japanese capital.

By the time he died at 98 years old on March 10, the company built by Mr. Ito controlled the global 7-Eleven convenience-store business and was one of Japan’s biggest retailers.

The company—known today as Seven & i Holdings Co.—initially was the Japanese licensee of the 7-Eleven brand. After rapid growth, it eventually took control of the U.S. company that owned the 7-Eleven business.

Under Mr. Ito and a lieutenant who led the convenience-store business, Toshifumi Suzuki, the Japanese “combini” [in Japan written as katakana, for for COMVENIEnce store;; Japanese does not have the consonant v] became a phenomenon on its own, different from the traditional American convenience store.

Some 21,000 Seven-Eleven stores in Japan—where the number 7 is spelled out in the name [セブン-イレブン, where セブン is katakana for seven]—sell a variety of ready-to-eat foods such as rice balls and sandwiches. They offer services such as bill paying and banking as well as the kind of odds and ends someone might need at 3 a.m. like a stapler or a fresh undershirt.

*Mr. Ito wrote that he wasn’t a fan of English words like “shareholder” and “stakeholder” sometimes used by Japanese businesspeople trying to sound enlightened. “There’s no need to get befuddled by this flood of foreign words,” he said. “Business only exists when you have customers.”

Mr. Ito was born in Tokyo on April 30, 1924, to a merchant family. In an autobiography published in the Nikkei newspaper in 2003, he said he learned the business from watching his mother run the family grocery, calling her a model merchant.

*His other mentor, he said, was Yuzuru 譲, his half-brother from his mother’s first marriage who came to live with the family. He recalled going with Yuzuru to see American movies starring the likes of Clark Gable and James Cagney before World War II broke out.

*It was the spark of insight behind the chain of Japanese superstores that Mr. Ito would later name after himself: Ito-Yokado. Around the same time, a brother and sister from the Okada family, also having visited the U.S., built the chain then known as Jusco, now called Aeon Co., Ito-Yokado’s biggest rival.

*For Ito-Yokado, convenience stores seemed like a risky gamble. They needed small quantities of many items, different from the big Ito-Yokado stores. Still, the company decided to plunge into the business in 1974.

*Mr. Ito had a long friendship with management guru Peter Drucker. In a 2018 memoir, he recalled a speech Mr. Drucker made to Ito-Yokado employees describing the convenience-store business as a great social revolution because small shops could be on the leading edge of retail trends. Seven-Eleven Japan was a pioneer in using technology to get hot-selling items on the shelves quickly.

*Mr. Ito’s second son, Junro, earned an M.B.A. at Claremont Graduate University in California at the school now known as the Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management.

*When the parent of 7-Eleven stores in the U.S., Southland Corp., was ailing in the late 1980s, it turned to Mr. Ito. He decided to buy majority control of the company as part of a bankruptcy proceeding, saying he prayed it wouldn’t blow up in his face.

*Instead, scandal hit from another direction. Top officials of Ito-Yokado were arrested in 1992 and charged with paying off racketeers known as sokaiya who extort money by threatening to disclose unfavorable information about a company. Mr. Ito stepped down as president.

*The present-day structure of Seven & i Holdings was created in 2005, and the holding company controls the global 7-Eleven business. At his death, Mr. Ito held the title of honorary chairman.

He is survived by his eldest son, Yasuhisa; a daughter, Hisako; and his son Junro, who is a top executive at Seven & i Holdings.
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 楼主| 发表于 3-18-2023 12:40:47 | 显示全部楼层
(3) James R Hagerty, Mary Elizabeth Hilton. 1937-2023. Champion of Cloth Diaper Fought P&G. Wall Street Journal, Mar 18, 2023, at page A12.
https://www.wsj.com/articles/mar ... dies-at-85-fdb5f0ed

Note:
(a) In print, the online paragraph 2 became: Cloth-diaper services "made some headway against disposables in the 1980s and early 1990s by arguing that throwaway diapers were clogging landfills and creating a heavy burden on the environment.
(b) Print keeps the next paragraph that start with "Makers of disposable diapers eventually retorted that * * * "
(c) The print then has the next and last paragraph that combines part of two online paragraphs: "Faced with uncertainty over environmental consequences, more parents defaulted to the convenience of disposables.   By the early 2000s, few diaper laundries remained in operation. Ms Hilton sold her company and helped run a campground. In recent years, she had Parkinson’s disease. She died March 5 at the age of 85."
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Around the time that Procter & Gamble Co. was introducing Pampers in the early 1960s, Mary Hilton and her husband, William Hilton, had a different idea: They decided to go into the business of laundering cloth diapers.

For the next 40 years, Ms. Hilton fought a valiant rearguard action against P&G and other makers of disposable diapers. Based in Kalamazoo, Mich., her family-owned company at its peak in the mid-1990s had about 10,000 customers in three states and more than 150 employees. Ms. Hilton, who took charge of the company after her husband died in 1978, became one of the biggest operators in a mostly mom-and-pop business and a spokeswoman for diaper-cleaning trade groups.

Diaper laundries, which cleaned cloth diapers and delivered them back to homes, made some headway against disposables in the 1980s and early 1990s by arguing that throwaway diapers were clogging landfills and creating a heavy burden on the environment.

Makers of disposable diapers eventually retorted that cotton farming involved use of pesticides and that trucks delivering diapers added to air pollution. Faced with uncertainty over environmental consequences, more parents defaulted to the convenience of disposables.

By the early 2000s, few diaper laundries remained in operation. Ms. Hilton sold her company and helped run a campground. In recent years, she had Parkinson’s disease. She died March 5 at the age of 85.

Fighting P&G and its vast advertising budget was never going to be easy. In 1984, Ms. Hilton told the Chicago Tribune that her business relied mainly on word-of-mouth and referrals. “We see 50% of all babies born [in the company’s service areas] at one time or another,” she said.

For a spell, the environmental argument seemed to be going her way. “Cotton diapers are the original curbside recyclables,” John Shiffert, executive director of the National Association of Diaper Services, told the New York Times in 1990. The Wall Street Journal reported the same year that about 18 billion disposable diapers ended up in landfills annually.

Ms. Hilton described her customers as “the same gals who talked manufacturers into removing salt and food coloring from baby food.” Some of them turned to Ms. Hilton for advice when their babies were squalling. She was willing to counsel them, based on her experience as a mother of three, and produced a pamphlet called “The ABC’s of Diaper Rash.”

In the 1970s, she wrote a syndicated newspaper column for the Diaper Service Consumer Information Council. In one column, she offered suggestions for parents who found themselves out of diapers in the middle of the night: “A terry cloth hand towel makes a good diaper if your baby is small. For a somewhat larger child, fold one of Dad’s tee-shirts into a soft, fairly thick rectangle.”

In another column, she reported that mesh playpens could be mended with dental floss.

She was born Mary Elizabeth Sorgenfrei on Sept. 20, 1937, in Chicago. Her mother worked for an advertising agency. After a divorce when Mary was a child, her mother remarried an architect who ran a construction business. The oldest of three daughters, Mary was on a synchronized swimming team and spent summers at a family farm in Michigan.

She enrolled in the veterinary program at Michigan State University but found it unwelcoming to women and dropped out after a year. She met Mr. Hilton when she stepped into his cab. He was working part time as a taxi driver to support his studies. Mr. Hilton was unrelated to the hotel clan; his original name was William Heltebrake. Tired of spelling that name out for other people, he decided to change his last name and found Hilton in a phone book.

In the early 1960s, a construction company that employed Mr. Hilton went out of business. He and Ms. Hilton decided to try the diaper-laundering business partly because it didn’t require a large amount of capital to start. They initially laundered the diapers in their own basement. In 1967, her company advertised a price of 80 diapers delivered weekly for $3, or the current equivalent of about $27.

Ms. Hilton’s survivors include her companion, Rick Charles Johnson, along with three children, five grandchildren and a sister.

A nonprofit she founded in 1991, Clothes for Kids, worked with diaper services to supply clean clothing to homeless children. She also developed methods to rehabilitate wild animals, including raccoons, skunks and woodchucks. In the 1990s, she and her children acquired an animal sanctuary in Coloma, Mich., where she once helped with the birth of a camel.

As a business owner, she sometimes struggled to be taken seriously by men. At one point, a lawyer refused to return her calls. She sent him a box of freshly baked chocolate-chip cookies and promised another if he called her back. He did.
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