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In Memoriam

ROBERT E. KATZ

1888-1976

by his son, Ellis Katz


Dad was born in Berdichev, Ukraine Aug 25, 1888. As a 2-year old, he came with his mother, father, two brothers and a sister to Chicago. In later years he would say how he could still recall the smell of the third-class quarters of the ship that brought him to these shores. HIs father's name was "Elias" (for whom I was named); unfortunately, he died before I knew him. I do not recall my grandmother's name but I knew her as a dear kind lady. Dad was the eldest of his siblings; his brothers were Jack and Irving and his sister was Fanny


My grandfather moved his family to Fort Worth, Texas in the first decade of the twentieth century...he is seen here standing in front of his "Chicago Store" with his son, my father, then age about 14


Dad ,as a young dude in his early twenties, enjoyed and was very good at dancing and roller skating. But, most of all, he had a great gift for sales. He had left home at the age of eighteen and talked his way into his first job as a glove salesman for a Tulsa department store. Later, he moved to Toronto as sales manager for a leather goods company. After Canada entered WW I in 1914, Dad found himself uncomfortable as a U.S. citizen in Canada and asked for a transfer to the U.S. That move was fortuitous because it was while traveling on business to Chattanooga that he met his beautiful Ethel. "



On his first trip to Chattanooga, Dad was introduced to Ethel Miller, then age seventeen. He "swept her off her feet". Her local beaux were upset that this "Yankee" dude (wearing spats, yet) had come to their town and was squiring their local beauty. Dad soon found reason to anchor his sales travels around Chattanooga and, in the spring of 1917 they were engaged and, on 3 June they were married. "


In the summer of 1917, Dad registered for the draft [click on photo for enlargement], trained and shipped to France with a Tennessee division. My Mom had tried everything to keep her husband safe at home...even appealing in person to the governor for his release. Nevertheless, Dad served with distinction as sergeant in an artillery company until the armistice, Nov 11, 1918. [The inscription on the photo reads, "To Dearest Mother from you soldier boy, "Bob"]


With the war over, Dad returned home to his bride and set about making a living. He traveled for the Panther Leather & Rubber Company selling rubber heels and leather goods to shoe makers and associated businesses.. In later years, at an annual conference of the industry, he was noted as one of the pioneers in the business. However, due to an import/export fracas with England in the early twenties, the business dried up and, with a young family to support, he took on many different "lines". It didn't really matter, Dad was a super salesman and always provided for his family

By 1926, Dad's family included my sister, Florence, and me. Dad was doing well and his family was then living in Providence, RI. [See the 1930 Census; click on graphic for enlargement]
The family had already lived for short periods in Chattanooga, Miami and Chicago (Dad's travels took him far and wide). In those heady days of the mid-to-late twenties, we lived in comfortable circumstances and my parents enjoyed a very active social life.

But, as the depression set in by the early thirties, businesses failed, and Dad had to take on more "lines" and be longer away from home...times were tough. So, in 1932, Dad moved the family to Atlanta where, with a "shoe-string and some spit", he opened a ladies ready-to-wear store. But ladies couldn't afford new dresses so Dad went back on the road. He sold popcorn machines, chemicals, ladies dresses, "dress-protectors" (his invention) and anything else he could fit into his travel-weary old Plymouth. During the summers of '35 and '36, I traveled with my father through the small dusty towns of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. There would usually be a general merchandise store on the town square and Dad was always greeted with a big welcome from the owner: "Hello Bob, happy to see you...but you know I can't buy anything". And Dad would smile and reply, "I wouldn't sell you anything if you wanted it". But...Dad would sell him anyway. And, then, after the day's business, we would check into a "drummers" hotel where the traveling men would sit around the lobby telling their stories...and all welcomed Bob Katz. My father was a great story teller and his stories were part of his secret of sales greatness.

Click below on "The Steak Dinner" for a story of those times.


In 1937 the family moved to Jacksonville, FL to be nearer Dad's base of travel but, when the war began in '41, the family returned to Atlanta where Dad joined my uncle, Ben Cohen, in a thriving concession business in the Terminal Rail Station.

Within a few short years, Florence and I had married and moved away...my sister to Seattle and I to Hampton, Virginia. And, with their family secure, our parents moved to Miami Beach where Dad founded a successful chemical supply business. He was prouder of that than anything he had done in business.

By '51, Dad and Mom moved to the west coast to be nearer Florence. Dad managed a dress store and, later, sold real estate. When the dress store failed, it was just like my father to pick himself up and start anew by going to school and getting his real estate license.


This portrait was taken in Atlanta 1945 just prior to the marriages of their children


Here is Dad with his first-born grandchild, Florence's son, Alan. He was very proud of his four grandsons: Alan, Ron, Dan and Paul.

On June 3, 1967 Mom and Dad celebrated their 50th golden wedding anniversary. It was a most happy evening at the Beverly Hills Hotel with all their family and friends gathered to do them honor. Ever after, my parents thought it one of the happiest days of their lives.
And...finally there came a time when Mom and Dad could truly relax and enjoy their remaining years with their caring family.

My father had an unquenchable love of life. He was the finest man I have known. He met challenges I could never have met. Although not a big success in material matters, he was highly successful in all that truly counts. My father was respected by all who knew him; loved dearly by his wife of 60 years; loved and admired by his children and grandchildren.