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Friday, November 11, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Businessman always dressed to the nines

Seattle Times staff reporter

Befitting a gentleman whose family once owned one of the nation's largest clothing franchises, Winfield "Bill" A. Foreman was always impeccably dressed — a white handkerchief in the breast pocket of his sports coat, always with a tie or ascot.

"He always looked as if he should be on the cover of GQ magazine. He had an innate sense of fashion," said Sharon Friel, a family friend.

Mr. Foreman, a resident of Madison Park, died Nov. 3 after suffering a heart attack. He was 90.

His family owned a chain of department stores in the early 1900s called Foreman & Clark until the franchise went out of business in 1999.

Mr. Foreman was born May 21, 1915, six years after his father, Winfield Foreman, helped start Foreman & Clark department store in Los Angeles. The chain slowly expanded on the West Coast, then nationwide.

His father died when Mr. Foreman, known as Bill, was in his teens.

The only son then moved in with his aunt and uncle in Minneapolis and attended Carleton College, where he graduated summa cum laude in economics in 1937.

Mr. Foreman worked in the family business in Chicago and several other cities, serving in every capacity from sales to management to learn the trade. He became a district manager, family members said.

During World War II, he served in the Navy before returning to the family business. Restless, Mr. Foreman "wanted to run something on his own," said his second cousin, John Foreman, former chairman and president of Foreman & Clark in Minnesota.

Mr. Foreman left the family business in the 1950s, but remained in the retail and fashion industry, where he rose rapidly, first as vice president of the wholesale division of the Associated Merchandising Corp. of New York, then later as vice president of John Wanamaker Inc., an upscale department store in Philadelphia.

There, Mr. Foreman met Alice Gautsch at an awards banquet in the spring of 1977. The couple married two years later. It was Mr. Foreman's second marriage.

"He was always the best-dressed person at the mall — or anywhere else he goes," said his wife.

In 1980, he retired and joined his wife in Seattle. When he was not golfing or watching the New York Yankees, he was juggling civic duties. He also advised businesses in Mexico and the Philippines as a volunteer.

An American history buff, Mr. Foreman was an avid reader, friends said. "You could talk to him about anything — arts, literature, politics, current events. He always knew what was going on. He was sharp. Even at 90, he never lost an inch of his memory," said neighbor Dee McQuesten.

Mr. Foreman is survived by his wife, Alice Foreman; son Winfield A. Foreman III and daughter Nell Kleinschmidt, both of New York City; and a granddaughter.

A celebration of his life will be held at 1 p.m. Nov. 20 at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, 4805 N.E. 45th St., followed by a reception at the Seattle Tennis Club, 922 McGilvra Blvd. E.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to The Winfield A. Foreman Endowed Scholarship for Academic Excellence in Economics at Carleton College, One North College Street, Northfield, MN 55057.

Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or tvinh@seattletimes.com.

Researcher Gene Balk contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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