Notable Deaths ›

Lillian Vernon (1927 - 2015)

AP Photo / Vincent Pugliese

Lillian Vernon (1927 - 2015)

Lillian Vernon, the businesswoman who founded the mail-order catalog company that bears her name, has died. She was 88.

Vernon, whose corporation was the first company founded by a woman to be traded on the American Stock Exchange, died Monday in Manhattan, New York. No cause of death was announced.

Vernon, who was born Lilli Menasche March 18, 1927, in Leipzig, Germany, fled the Nazis with her Jewish family. They moved to Amsterdam in 1933. Four years later, they immigrated to the U.S.

Click to get weekly celebrity death news delivered to your inbox. 

In 1949, she married Samuel Hochberg. After turning 24, she built the Vernon Specialties Co. mail order service from the ground up, sinking $2,000 into the venture. By then, she had changed her name, borrowing Vernon from the town of Vernon, New York, where she and her husband lived.

It proved instantly successful, especially with young women, the company's chief marketing demographic. Several years later, the business expanded into jewelry and cosmetics by Revlon, Max Factor, Maybelline and Elizabeth Arden.

After the couple divorced in 1969, Vernon continued the catalog business. It soon went global, selling to and featuring products from markets in Europe. The Lillian Vernon Corp. went public in 1987, and Vernon became the first female company founder to be traded publicly on the American Stock Exchange.

The multimillion-dollar business went private in 2003 after it was acquired by Zelnick Media.

In the 2000s and beyond, Vernon became well-known for her philanthropic efforts, many of which were carried out in New York and nationwide by her Lillian Vernon Foundation.

Vernon is survived by her third husband, Paolo Martino, whom she married in 1998; and two sons from her first marriage, David and Fred Hochberg.

We invite you to share condolences for Lillian Vernon in our Guest Book.