Lee Traub, dancer and wife of the late Bloomingdale’s chairman and chief executive officer Marvin Traub, died July 5 at the age of 95.
Traub, who studied dance under Martha Graham, was a familiar figure in retail and fashion circles, accompanying her husband to black-tie events and fundraisers and on travels to exotic places around the world, where for many years together they would discover indigenous merchandise and craftsmanship, much of which Bloomingdale’s, under the direction of Marvin, brought to the States for splashy import promotions in the Bloomingdale’s stores. They helped elevate the profile of the business and piqued the curiosity of shoppers.
Marvin Traub passed away in 2012, though even after his demise, Lee continued to appear at fundraisers and cocktails.
Ten years ago, in a joint interview with WWD, Marvin said of his wife: “Lee has been a wonderful partner. She made many of these overseas trips with me and was part of the Bloomingdale’s team. She went to China. She went to Paris with me for the collections.
“We love India. Lee has been fascinated with it. India is such a hugely varied country. We have been to the north in Kashmir, which is wintry, and to the south in Trivandrum, which has palm trees, 14 different languages, and fascinating archeology and history. There is so much to see.”
The couple met on a blind date in January 1947, and were married in September 1948. “She worked my way through business school, through our first year of the marriage,” Marvin told WWD.
Back then, “It was so hard to get a job,” Lee said. “I worked in an advertising office. I was a one-girl office. I did everything. We shared space with an Egyptian chemical company which was in the embalming business. It was like a scene out of, what was that old play, ‘You Can’t Take It With You.’”
Lee began studying dance at age three, was on point at age five, started learning the Martha Graham technique at 14, and in high school studied with Martha Graham herself for a couple of years, along with Paul Taylor, Merce Cunningham and Donald McKayle.
Aside from actually dancing, she was long affiliated with dance organizations, joining the Graham board in 1974, serving as chairman from 1982 through 1992 and later as chair emerita.
She was also on the boards of the New York Dance Alliance and the Rioult Company, served as the assistant to the director of the Association of American Dance Companies, and is a former president of the Westchester Dance Council.
“When the economy isn’t good, the arts is the first to suffer,” Lee once said. “They are all continuing. You don’t hear of too many going out of business. Somehow, they just fight and struggle and do it.”
Graham once said that her student possessed “a rare understanding of a dancer’s world, as well as the many other worlds that support and nurture the performing arts.” As a gift for her support of the dance world, Graham in the early ’90s presented Lee with a carved jade necklace from China.
According to a paid obituary in The New York Times, Lee Traub is survived by her sons Andrew and James; grandchildren Rebecca, Rachel, Abigail and Alex, and great-grandson Mason.