NEW YORK — Robert J. Barnes, the former president of Estée Lauder USA, died after a short illness Sunday at his home in Monarch Beach, Calif. He was 86 years old.

Barnes joined Estée Lauder in 1964 when the company was in its infancy. In the years ahead, he helped lead the company’s rise to a dominant position in the industry before retiring in 1991.

The son of Lawrence and Lillian Barnes, he was born on Nov. 17, 1916, in Kalamazoo, Mich., where he attended school and worked with his father at the A.W. Johnson Company men’s store. Later, Barnes entered Northwestern University and graduated in 1939. There, he met his wife, Barbara, whom he was married to for more than 60 years.

During World War II, Barnes served in the 1st Marine Division in Guadalcanal. He received the Army Marine Corps medal for saving the lives of Army airmen trapped in a downed aircraft. He retired from the Marines as a Lt. Colonel.

Following the war, Barnes moved to San Marino, Calif., where he began in the cosmetics field by helping to build the Dorothy Gray cosmetics line into the number-one brand on the West Coast. Barnes was then hired by the Estée Lauder Cos., moving to Greenwich, Conn., in 1967. His sales talents are credited by Lauder as being instrumental in its success throughout the Seventies and Eighties.

Following his retirement, Barnes left Greenwich in 1993 and became a resident of Monarch Beach and Indian Wells, Calif., involving himself in business ventures including real estate development, retailing and investing.

Barnes is survived by wife Barbara, son John, daughter Nancy and six grandchildren.

Memorial services will be held at San Marino Community Church on Tuesday at 11:00 a.m. Donations can be made in memory of Barnes to either the Scripps Foundation Cancer Research, Healing Hearts Funds or the Children’s Brain Center at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles.

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