SOURCE: Kellwood

October 26, 2011 12:30 ET

William J. McKenna, 85, Former Kellwood Chairman and Life-Long Apparel Executive, Dies

ST. LOUIS, MO--(Marketwire - Oct 26, 2011) - William J. McKenna died Sunday, October 23 at home. He suffered a fall in September and never fully recovered from it, his wife Karen L. McKenna said. Mr. McKenna retired as chairman in November 1999 from Kellwood Company, a diversified apparel company, and from its board in November 2001.

An early visionary of the coming global marketplace, Mr. McKenna focused his energy on the transformation of Kellwood from a predominantly domestic manufacturer of private label merchandise for one customer -- to a marketer of diverse, branded apparel products sold to a broad spectrum of retailers and channels, and sourced throughout the world.

A major part of his strategy was an aggressive acquisition program. Under his direction, Kellwood acquired 14 companies between 1985 and 1995. During his tenure, he saw sales grow from $606 million to $2.1 billion.

Mr. McKenna began his career in the industry with Hat Corporation of America in New York City. During his years there, he rose to the position of executive vice president in 1967, before leaving to become president of the Manhattan Shirt Company. After his tenure from 1967 to 1974 at the shirt company, he became president of the Lee Company in Shawnee Mission, KS.

He joined Kellwood from Lee in 1982, as Kellwood president and chief operating officer. Mr. McKenna was named chief executive officer in August of 1984, and chairman in 1991.

In 1949 he married Jean T. McNulty and they had four children, Kevin McKenna of Aventura, FL, Marybeth McKenna of Dania Beach, FL, Peter McKenna of Meridian, ID, and Dawn Murrell of Overland Park, KS. His wife died in 1984. In 1988, he married Karen Lynne Hilgert and they had two children, Katherine and William IV, both of Chesterfield, MO. His wife, six children, nine grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and a brother, Richard, survive him.

Mr. McKenna served in the U.S. Navy from 1944 to 1946 as PTO. Over the years he served on numerous corporate and charitable boards. He was trustee emeritus of Boys Hope/Girls Hope and Saint Louis University. He also was a permanent deacon with the Archdiocese of St. Louis and a member of the Knights of Malta. Mr. McKenna graduated from Iona College in 1949, and received his Master's degree in 1950 from New York University.

Visitation will be held from 3:00 pm to 8 pm on Sunday, October 30 at Bopp Funeral Home, 10610 Manchester Road, Kirkwood, MO, and also on October 31 at St. Agnes Home between 10:00 am - 11 am, prior to the 11 am funeral mass also at St. Agnes Home,10341 Manchester Road, Kirkwood, MO. Burial will follow at St. Charles Memorial Gardens Cemetery, St. Charles, MO 63301. Memorial contributions may be made to Boys Hope/Girls Hope, St. Louis University Cancer Center, or Saint Louis University.

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