Stephen F. Powers, a former senior executive at May Department Stores Co. and Kellwood Co. and a 30-year veteran of the industry, died Sunday due to respiratory failure.

This story first appeared in the March 22, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Powers was 63 and lived in Hermosa Beach, Calif.

Friends and business colleagues characterized Powers as a business strategist, entrepreneurial and a team leader. “Steve was a resourceful merchant who had a keen eye for fashion and the ability to find key items and maximize their sales through promotion and strong presentation,” said Bob Webster, chairman of Palmetto Moon and a former senior merchant at May Co., which was acquired by Macy’s in 2005. “He was not afraid to vary from the May vendor matrix or support an idea he had tested.”

“I knew Steve for 20-plus years,” said Dan Schwarzwalder, senior managing director, Buckingham Capital Management. “He was a true leader, extremely successful, and terrific at challenging individuals and analyzing businesses so they reached their potential.”

“Steve was a man who always made his point without question,” said his brother David.

Powers had a 20-year career at May Co., rising to executive vice president of women’s apparel for May Merchandising Corp. Earlier, he oversaw the women’s businesses at several of the retail divisions of May Co. as a senior vice president and general merchandise manager. He also served as president and chief executive officer of the former Koret division of Kellwood; president and chief operating officer for Gruen Watch Co., and president of Chaus Sportswear and retail outlets. He started his career at J.L. Brandeis & Sons in Omaha.

He is survived by his wife, Amy; a son, Shane; grandson, Boston; a daughter, Heather; brothers David, Raphael 3rd and Paul; sisters Jeanmarie, Mary, Theresa and Annmarie, and 44 nieces and nephews.

A wake is being held at John A. Gentleman Mortuary, 1010 North 72nd Street in Omaha on Thursday at 7 p.m. A memorial mass will be held at Holy Name Catholic Church, 2901 Fontenelle Boulevard, Omaha, at noon on Friday. A memorial service on March 27 will be held at Rice Funeral Home, 5310 Torrance Boulevard in Torrance, Calif.

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