NEW YORK — Geoffrey Swaebe, a former head of May Department Stores’ California division who, after leaving retailing, became U.S. ambassador to Belgium, died Tuesday in Century City Hospital, Los Angeles, following a six-month illness, according to his wife, Mary. He was 85.
Swaebe held senior positions at several retailers, including Thalheimer’s, Florsheim Shoe Co., I. Miller & Sons and Abercrombie & Fitch before joining May Co. in 1950 as general manager of the Hecht Co. division.
In 1962, he became chairman and chief executive officer of the May Co. division based in Los Angeles, where he was instrumental in expanding the chain during his 10 years at the helm.
Swaebe embarked on a new career in 1981, when he was named U.S. permanent representative to the U.N. in Geneva by President Reagan, who later appointed him ambassador to Belgium, a position he filled until 1988.
In addition to his wife, Swaebe is survived by his son, Geoffrey Jr.