Funeral services will be held Sunday morning at Larchmont Temple for apparel executive and philanthropist Joseph J. Aresty, 95.
Aresty, former chief executive officer of Alfred Dunner, died Tuesday of complications from a stroke at his Mamaroneck home, according to his son Peter, the company’s long-standing president. For decades, the elder Aresty preferred to close deals with two assets — his word and a handshake — a practice the company had continued with through the years, Peter Aresty said.
Joseph Aresty was one of nine children born in Rochester, N.Y., to Juda Joseph and Emma Nahmias Aresty, who had emigrated from Monastir. After graduating from Benjamin Franklin High School, Joseph Aresty went on to earn a degree from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 1943. As a U.S. Army Air Corps staff sergeant in England during World War II, he flew on reconnaissance missions in the European theater.
After the war, Aresty started his retail career at L. Bamberger & Co. in Newark, N.J. Not long after that, he was transferred to its parent company, R.H. Macy & Co. in the Herald Square location. At that time, Aresty was a buyer for a number of ladies’ and men’s apparel products before becoming vice president of men’s accessories. It was at the West 34th Street base that he first met his wife Catherine “Kitty” Fortuin Aresty, who worked there as fashion coordinator.
“Back then if you got married, somebody had to quit,” Peter Aresty said of his parents, who were married for 60 years. After living in Greenwich, Conn., for a stint, the couple put down roots in Rye to raise him and their other son, Steven. About 35 years ago, the couple relocated to Mamaroneck.
In 1962, Joseph Aresty joined Alfred Dunner Inc., which was a fledgling women’s apparel manufacturing company, as an equity partner. The following year he took over running the company when his business partner was killed in a car accident, his son said. In the Sixties, he persuaded his two brothers, Gerald and Jerome, to join him at the company. Together, they built Alfred Dunner into one of the largest privately owned apparel manufacturers in the U.S., Peter Aresty said, declining to provide specific figures.
In the early Eighties, each of the three brothers had a son join the company. In the last 16 years, the company added Ruby Rd., Emaline, Skye’s the Limit and Hearts of Palm to its assortment of nationally recognized brands.
After retiring in 1995, Aresty and his wife founded the Catherine and Joseph Aresty Foundation with an emphasis of charitable outreach geared toward education. As a first-generation college graduate who had a modest upbringing, Aresty was dedicated to helping the underprivileged receive a quality education. He started the Donor’s Education Collaborative and the Early Childhood Partners NYC, two pooled fund collectives committed to seeing that all New Yorkers receive equal and fair educational opportunities.
The former apparel executive underwrote and established the Aresty Institute of Executive Education at Wharton. He served on Wharton’s board of overseers and was the first recipient of the Wharton school’s dean’s medal. His commitment to Wharton included setting up the Aresty chair of the department of strategic management, the Joseph J. Aresty endowed professorship of leadership and change management, the Julian Aresty professorship and the Joseph Aresty endowed scholarship fund.
Aresty also provided leadership grants to the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, where he had previously had treatment for cancer twice. These gifts included the Catherine and Joseph Aresty Conference Center, the Catherine and Joseph Aresty department of urology, the Catherine and Joseph Aresty chair for urological research and laboratory and the Catherine and Joseph Aresty urological floor. At the University of Rochester, Aresty established the Helen Aresty Fine and Irving Fine professorship in neurology. At Harvard University/Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, he endowed the Victor J. Aresty chair in oncology. These gifts honored two of his siblings who had untimely deaths.
Aresty and his wife also supported the restoration of the John Jay House in Rye, a 23-acre estate that was the boyhood home of New York state’s founding father. There he established and endowed the Jay Heritage Center. Through the Aresty foundation, major gifts were made to Prep for Prep, Planned Parenthood of NYC, Harlem Academy, Citizen’s Committee for Children, the Community Resource Center of Mamaroneck and other organizations.
With three daughters ages 24, 22 and 15, Peter Aresty hasn’t enlisted any of them into the family trade. “I took over the business about 24 years ago. What’s been fun in the last 16 years was to create a lot of other brands. I named one Ruby Rd. after my second daughter. And I have Skye’s the Limit after my daughter Skye. Whether they will come into the business or not is hard to say. At this point, I want them to make their own way, and do what they want to do. Then, if the opportunity arises, there is lots here to do,” he said.
In addition to his wife, Aresty is survived by his sons Peter and Steven.