Albert Thompson Marlowe, 84, president of Hamburger's Clothiers

September 06, 2005|By Bradley Olson | Bradley Olson,SUN STAFF

Albert Thompson Marlowe, former president and CEO of Hamburger's Clothiers, a longtime downtown clothing retailer that eventually was absorbed by Philips-Van Heusen, died Thursday after a steady decline from dementia. He was 84.

Born in Montgomery County, the son of a Rockville sheriff, Mr. Marlowe had what his daughter described as a difficult childhood growing up on Fulton Avenue in West Baltimore with his mother after his parents divorced.

In 1944, Mr. Marlowe enlisted in the Army and served in Europe, where he was awarded three Battle Stars, the Combat Infantry Badge and two Purple Hearts.

He began at Hamburger's in 1952 as a credit manager in its downtown store, at a time when the company was competing with several other major retailers. Mr. Marlowe moved up over time in the family-owned company, working as operations vice president and executive vice president before being promoted to president in 1974. He became chairman and CEO in 1981, after Hamburger's became a subsidiary of Philips-Van Heusen.

During his time as the company's leader, the chain expanded into Washington, Pennsylvania, New England and Delaware through Van Heusen acquisitions of other stores, reaching an apex at more than 30 stores in the early 1980s. Before his retirement in 1984, Mr. Marlowe was the president of the Retail Merchants Association of Baltimore. Hamburger's was bought by Hugo Boss in 1989.

Bob Toner, who became president of Hamburger's after Mr. Marlowe's retirement, said his former boss' greatest gift was with people.

"He didn't mix too much in those areas that he didn't feel totally qualified in," said Mr. Toner, who lives in Kingston, Mass. "He let people do their thing, whether merchandising, operations, credit or distribution. He would always let people do what they did best."

Mr. Toner said Mr. Marlowe was colorblind and often was the butt of jokes because of it. Mr. Toner recalled being lectured by Mr. Marlowe now and again in his office. When Mr. Marlowe finished, Mr. Toner would gibe: "Let's go down on the floor and get you a pair of socks that matches."

Mr. Marlowe's daughter, Debra Marlowe Vickers of Manchester, said her father was known as a fair but tough boss who often would roll up his sleeves to dress a window and help stock new stores, even as CEO.

"He was a wonderful father, a great provider, he had a great sense of humor and he was a terrific role model for all of us," Ms. Vickers said.

A father of six children, Mr. Marlowe was a devout Catholic, converting when he married Marie Dauber, who died in 1997 after a 56-year marriage.

Ms. Vickers said her father loved performing small tricks at dinner parties for children and worked all his life to improve his public speaking and become a better accountant. His love of learning prompted her and two of her sisters to become teachers, she said.

A funeral Mass was offered Saturday.

In addition to his daughter, he is survived by a loving companion, Ellen Rehak; a son, Albert Thompson Marlowe III of Westminster; four other daughters, Donna Marie Selway of White Hall, Janet Connolly of Lutherville, Nancy Merritt of Clarksville and Mary Ellen Miller of Bethesda; 12 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

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