Designer Mollie Parnis dies of heart failureNEW YORK...

OBITUARIES

July 19, 1992|By New York Times News Service @ Norman Farquhar Retired bank president

NEW YORK — Designer Mollie Parnis dies of heart failure

NEW YORK -- Mollie Parnis, the fashion designer whose Park Avenue living room was as well known to actors, journalists and Democrats as her Seventh Avenue showroom was to the women who bought her dresses, died yesterday at New York University Hospital. She was in her early 90s but had long refused to disclose her exact age.

She died of congestive heart failure, said a close friend, the writer Richard Clurman.

Born to a poor immigrant family in New York City before the turn of the century, she started working at odd jobs when she was 8 years old and eventually built a multimillion-dollar dress business.

But her interests ranged well beyond her cutting rooms. She became a skilled collector of art and of people and contributed some of her fortune to the beautification of New York and Jerusalem.

Dresses she designed were worn by first ladies from Mamie Eisenhower to Betty Ford. Lady Bird Johnson became a close friend and one year, one of Miss Parnis' designs was bought by four Kennedys in four separate cities.

In her office, Miss Parnis kept photographs of first ladies wearing her designs posed with their husbands, as well as a signed photograph of Lyndon Baines Johnson in a shirt she had made for him.

With nothing more than a high school education and an upbringing that taught her that she would have to work for everything she would ever get, Miss Parnis started her career in New York in a blouse showroom. In no time, she had her name on the door, and then, in partnership with a man she met in school and later married, built a dress business that in its best years grossed $10 million.

But the fashion world held no interest for her after working hours. "The last thing I want to talk about is what people are wearing," she once told an interviewer.

She began to gather the most interesting people she knew at the Park Avenue duplex she moved into with her husband, Leon Livingston, in 1941. First she took up with movie stars, who were as eager to have her come to Hollywood as they were to visit her in New York.

When the Hollywood crowd started to lose interest for her, she began a more lasting relationship with writers around the city.

Norman Farquhar, retired president of Chevy Chase Savings Bank and former manager of the Washington office of Alex. Brown & Sons, died Tuesday of complications from cancer at Georgetown Hospital in Washington.

Mr. Farquhar, who was 71 and lived in Washington, retired in November after three years as bank president.

He had been associated with Alex. Brown from 1948 until 1988. Previously, he had been a partner in addition to serving from 1958 until 1979 as manager of the Washington office.

Born in Olney, he graduated from Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Va., in 1939 and from the University of Virginia in 1943.

He served in the Army during World War II, reaching the rank of captain in the Corps of Engineers while serving with the Office of Strategic Services in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka.

In 1954, he earned a law degree at the National University, now part of George Washington University.

He also had been a member of the boards of the Montgomery Mutual Insurance Co., the National Rehabilitation Hospital, the Episcopal High School, the University of Virginia Alumni Association, St. Alban's School for Boys in Washington and the Madeira School in McLean, Va.

A former president of the Metropolitan Club in Washington, he was also a member of the Alibi Club.

His first wife, the former Ann Randolph Jennings, died in 1980.

Survivors include his wife, the former Elinor K. Brown; a daughter, Katherine Farquhar of Sandy Spring; four sons, Douglas Brooke Farquhar of Baltimore, Edward Pleasants Farquhar of Montpelier, Vt., William Thomas Nesbitt Farquhar of Bethesda and Witt Jennings Farquhar of Washington; three stepdaughters, Elizabeth Merrill Brown and Marcia Bransfield Brown of Washington and Sarah Brown O'Hagan of New York City; his mother, Helen Nesbitt Farquhar of Sandy Spring; a brother, Gordon N. Farquhar of Weekapaug, R.I.; two sisters, Margaret F. Adelfio of Chevy Chase and Ann F. Forbush of Baltimore; and nine grandchildren.

A memorial service for Mr. Farquhar will be held at 11 a.m. Sept. 17 at Christ Episcopal Church in Washington. The family suggested memorial contributions could be made to the Episcopal High School, the Madeira School or St. Albans School for Boys.

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Ward L. Bennett

Maintenance chief

Ward L. Bennett, retired head of maintenance for two trucking companies, died July 3 of pneumonia at Broadmead, where he and his wife had lived since 1983.

Mr. Bennett, 84, became superintendent of automotive equipment for the Baltimore Transfer Co. and its subsidiary, Motor Freight Express of York, Pa., after World War II and remained in the posts until his retirement in 1972.

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