Lillian Vernon

Time of Service:

10am, Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Place of Service:

Riverside Memorial Chapel

Burial Location:

New Montefiore, Farmingdale, NY
Direct Marketing Pioneer and Philanthropist. Lillian Vernon was an American entrepreneur, businesswoman, philanthropist and household name to millions of American consumers. With the catalog that carried her name, Vernon was a major force in revolutionizing the American shopping experience and transforming the direct marketing and home shopping industries. Vernon pioneered techniques for connecting with consumers that have become standards of American retailing, including free monogramming, cause-related marketing, pop-up stores, 2 for 1 pricing and gift-with-purchase. The Lillian Vernon logo has appeared on more than 3 billion catalogues, and 500 million products. At its peak, Lillian Vernon sales topped $250 million with more than 4,500 employees. After leading the company into the online marketplace, Vernon sold the business to Zelnick Media in 2003. The catalog and its founder became part of popular culture for several generations, appearing on David Letterman, Jeopardy, Conan O’Brian, CSI, The Daily Show and Saturday Night Live. In 1951 the woman who would become Lillian Vernon invested $2000 of wedding gift money to begin a mail order business on her kitchen table. She coined the iconic company name Lillian Vernon--which she later adopted as her own--from the name of the small suburban town, Mount Vernon, where she and her husband Samuel Hochberg settled shortly after marrying in 1949. Lillian Vernon first appeared to the public in the September 1951 issue of Seventeen Magazine in an ad offering a personalized leather handbag for $2.99 and a matching belt for $1.99. With more than $32,000 in orders from that first ad, Vernon never looked back. In 1987, the Lillian Vernon Corporation became the first company founded by a woman to be publicly traded on the American Stock Exchange. Businesswoman, philanthropist and mother, Lillian Vernon embodied the American dream. Born LilIi Menasche in Leipzig, Germany on March 18, 1927 to Erna Feiner Menasche and Herman Menasche, Vernon was an immigrant who arrived in New York City at ten years old. She and her family fled Nazi Germany in 1933 after her brother, Fred Menasche, was attacked by a gang of Nazi youths. In 1933, the family moved to Amsterdam, where they lived down the street from where Anne Frank and her family hid. Vernon’s family immigrated to the United States in 1937—a year before the Kristallnacht and the beginning of the Holocaust. Vernon’s brother, Fred, later died in World War II in the uniform of his adopted country, after being drafted in the U.S. Army. Highly regarded for her marketing acumen as well as for her work championing women’s rights in the workplace, Vernon was the recipient of numerous awards including: the Direct Marketing Association Hall of Fame, the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame, New York University-Walter Nichols Award and Big Brothers/Big Sisters National Hero Award. A long-time supporter of the Democratic Party, Vernon was named by President Bill Clinton as chair of the White House National Business Women’s Council in 1997. She was also a major supporter of President Barack Obama and other Democratic candidates and officials. Vernon and her company donated funds and merchandise to more than 5000 charities. She served on the boards of Lincoln Center, City-Meals on Wheels, the American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic, and New York University, which she attended for two years as an undergraduate and where she funded the establishment of Lillian Vernon House, home to NYU’s celebrated creative writing program. Vernon is survived by her husband Paolo Martino and sons Fred P. Hochberg, Chairman of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, his partner, the poet Tom Healy, and David Hochberg, an agent for artists. Vernon was pre-deceased by her parents, Herman and Erna Menasche, and her brother, Fred Menasche.
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