NEW YORK — A memorial service will be held today for Herb Yalof at Riverside Memorial Chapel, 180 West 76th Street here, at 1:15 p.m.

This story first appeared in the September 23, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Yalof, a longtime Macy’s Inc. executive, died on Monday of pancreatic cancer at home in Quechee, Vermont, his family said. He was 72.

Yalof, who rose to president and chief operating officer of R.H. Macy & Co., began his retail career in the Macy’s training squad in 1961. “He walked in off the street and stood on line,” recalled his wife, Ina.

Don Eugene, chief financial officer and senior vice president for support operations and administration, hired Yalof as a financial assistant. From the late Sixties to mid-Seventies, Yalof held a series of jobs at the Bamberger’s division of the retailer, including assistant buyer, buyer for the petite shop, director of sales promotions, store manager of the Morristown, N.J., unit and director of stores.

Yalof left Macy’s in 1976 to become president of Hane’s & Company, a New Jersey department store chain. “At one point, Macy’s needed somebody on the financial and operations side of the business,” said Eugene. “Edward Finkelstein, [chairman and chief executive officer of R.H. Macy’s] or Mark Handler, [president of Macy’s] got him to come back as president of operations.”

Yalof returned in 1979 as vice chairman and chief operating officer of Macy’s New York. In 1988, when the company merged the New York and Bamberger’s divisions into what it called the Northeast division, Yalof was named its president and chief operating officer.

Yalof, who held the second highest executive position in Macy’s Northeast division, was a key participant in the management group of 350 people who invested in a leveraged buyout of the company in 1986. When the Macy’s LBO was unveiled, Eugene recalled that many executives bought boats, homes and cars. “Herb was frugal,” he said. But Yalof, a passionate collector, “would make Ralph Lauren jealous,” said his daughter, Suze Yalof Schwartz. “He had 8,000 glass candlesticks, Lalique crystal decanters. He’d go to the auctions and buy other people’s collections. He even had Rex Harrison’s sweater from ‘My Fair Lady.’”

“He was a calm, unflappable guy in the face of all kinds of problems,” Eugene said. “If you had a problem you couldn’t solve, you could always go to Herbie. There were numerous contentious meetings at Macy’s [during the time of the LBO]. Herb had a knack for being able to diffuse a contentious meeting with his sense of humor. One quip from him would cut the tension.”

Yalof took early retirement at age 53 and left Macy’s in 1990. Less than two years after he stepped down, he joined Hit or Miss as president.

In addition to his wife, Ina, and daughter Suze, Yalof is survived by another daughter, Leslie Yalof Garfield, son Stephen Yalof, and eight grandchildren.

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