Women’s Wear Daily’s longtime city editor Simon “Si” Lippa died May 11 at age 97.
Lippa succumbed to a long illness at the Meadowbrook Care Center, according to his daughter Michele Gartner.
Born in the Bronx, N.Y., Lippa’s family was well-known in Yiddish theater though his father, Max, also worked as a jeweler. Max Lippa lined up the first acting job for his wife’s younger brother Lee Strasberg, who went on to become the esteemed acting coach. Si Lippa became close with Strasberg’s daughter Susan, an actress and Lippa’s cousin.
Raised during the Depression, Lippa attended Townsend Harris High School in Manhattan to guarantee admittance to its affiliate City College of New York. There, he jumped into journalism as sports editor of the student newspaper. After earning his secondary diploma, Lippa skipped his graduation to report for active duty in the Army. In becoming a lieutenant, he was part of the 10th Armored Division of General George Patton’s Third Army, which took Metz, battled through the Saar-Moselle Triangle and fought in the Battle of the Bulge.
After the war, Lippa wed Leah Levine, a social worker who became his wife of 60-plus years. He started his journalism career at the Waste Trade Journal and the Jute Journal before joining Fairchild Publications’ WWD. Rising up the ranks from reporter to fabric editor and eventually city editor, Lippa also wrote classical music reviews. His love of music prompted one colleague to nickname him “Fra Lippo Lippi,” a reference to Robert Browning’s poem that depicts the real-life painter Filippo Lippi, said former WWD librarian Merle Thomason.
Former WWD managing editor Mort Sheinman said, “He was a good newspaperman, who had an appreciation for good writing. He was very knowledgeable about the textile industry and was a great asset to the paper.”
Another WWD alum, former city editor Ronald Cohen, said Thursday, “Si put up a very tempestuous front, but he was a very sweet guy. He would scream and yell, but it was more for show.”
Lippa, who exited WWD in 1983 after 26 years with the company, won the first Atrium Award for business reporting on the garment industry that was awarded by the University of Georgia’s Grady School of Journalism and Mass Communications. For two years, Lippa worked for then-New York Mayor Edward Koch as director of the office of apparel and accessories in the city’s office of business development. He was tasked with trying to stop the flood of factories leaving New York for nonunion Southern states and overseas locations. After retiring, Lippa and his wife traveled extensively and relocated to Lake Worth, Fla., where he played tennis into his late 80s. In 2010, they returned to Long Island.
In addition to his daughter Michele Gartner, Lippa is survived by his son, Andrew Lippa, and five grandsons.