More than 500 people attend memorial service for LL Bean CEO

AP News
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Posted: Sep 13, 2015 3:01 PM

WESTBROOK, Maine (AP) — L.L. Bean's flagship 24/7 stores in Freeport closed on Sunday for the first time in nearly a half-century as 500 people gathered at a memorial service for the retailer's longtime leader.

The service for Leon Gorman was held at a performing arts center in nearby Westbrook. Burial was to be private.

The Portland Press Herald reported (http://bit.ly/1EW5PWZ ) that Gorman's casket was center stage as a string quartet played classical music. A painting of Gorman, sitting alongside his two English springer spaniels, stood at the left of the casket.

Mark Swann, executive director of the Preble Street Resource Center, a nonprofit that helps the homeless, said Gorman had volunteered at its Portland soup kitchen every Wednesday morning for 12 years. He said the resource center's annual volunteer of the year award will be named the Leon Gorman Volunteer Service Award in his honor.

Swann said Gorman was a very powerful person who dedicated his time and effort to helping those with the least power who were impoverished.

"What a lesson from Leon for all of us," Swann said.

Gorman, the grandson of founder Leon Leonwood Bean, led the Maine-based company as CEO or chairman for 46 years before retiring as chairman of the board in 2013. He died earlier this month of cancer. He was 80.

He transformed the company after his grandfather's death in 1967 from a mail-order company with $5 million in annual sales and 100 employees into an international multi-channel retailer with sales topping $1.5 billion and more than 5,000 workers.

He also was a philanthropist and conservationist, giving to a variety of causes and working to ensure land is protected for future generations.

The fact that the Freeport stores closed underscores his importance to the company and the state.

L.L. Bean has voluntarily closed its stores only twice before, following the deaths of President John F. Kennedy and L.L. Bean himself.

Since 1951, the Freeport stores have been open 24/7 year-round, a tradition that dates to the days when fishermen and hunters roused L.L. Bean at all hours from his home above the store when they needed supplies.

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Information from: Portland Press Herald, http://www.pressherald.com