Judi Hofer

The former chief executive officer of May Merchandising Co. and May Department Stores International died Saturday at her Southwest Portland, Ore., home.

Judi Hofer, former chief executive officer of May Merchandising Co. and May Department Stores International, died Saturday at her Southwest Portland, Ore., home. She was 73.

This story first appeared in the December 17, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Hofer had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for several years and had recently been diagnosed with cancer, according to Kim Albert, guardian and executor for Hofer’s estate.

Originally from Hillsboro, Ore., where she grew up on a family farm, Hofer received her B.A. in business administration from Portland State University. She began her retail career at 15 when she became a stock girl at Meier & Frank. Throughout college, she worked in sales, modeling and as a teen fashion director there. In 1961, after she graduated college, she joined Meier & Frank full time as an executive trainee. She held numerous merchandising posts at Meier & Frank and Famous-Barr until 1981, when she was named president and ceo of Meier & Frank and became May’s first female ceo of a division.

She went on to become president and ceo of the former May Co., California division, in 1983, Famous-Barr in 1986 and MMC/MDSI in 2000. She also served as a member of May’s senior management committee. She retired from May Co. in July 2002 and returned to Oregon.

Thomas Kingsbury, ceo of Burlington Stores Inc., who was previously president and ceo of Filene’s/Kaufmann’s and a longtime May Department Stores Co. executive, said, “Judi was a great mentor to many of us at May Co. She had many fans throughout May. She was an extremely talented merchant who instilled in all of us how important it is to think like a customer.

“She was my boss at Famous-Barr,” said John Henderson, an industry consultant. “She was very talented, very creative and very aggressive. She was a pioneer in women advancing in the industry.” He said she created the word “event-izing.”

“When we would have a sale, she would make it into an event. She’d invite Miss America or a marching band to a coat sale and we’d wind up doing a huge amount of business,” he said.

Hofer was very active in the community and with charitable causes, including the National 4-H board, and as a board member of City of Hope Medical Center, Oregon State University and the Portland Art Museum. She also served on the board of Viad Corp., Moneygram International Inc., Ashworth Inc. and Payless Shoesource Inc.

Her passion since childhood was collecting dolls and related accessories. Many of them were acquired in her travels throughout the world. Her collection has been published in Fortune magazine and Arts & Antiques, among other publications. She auctioned off most of her dolls in 2004 to benefit Legacy Emanuel Children’s Hospital and Oasis Intergenerational Tutoring.

Hofer is survived by four siblings — Jim Hofer, Jane Drevescraft, Geraldine Hofer and Nathan Cook.

A memorial service will be held Feb. 1 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Multnomah Athletic Club, 1849 SW Salmon St. in Portland, Ore.