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Published: Wednesday, 6/16/2004

Manager oversaw Westgate Lion Store

Robert F. Faber, 87, who helped plan the Westgate Lion Store, which he then ran for 20 years as general manager, died of cancer Monday in his Ottawa Hills home.

Mr. Faber retired in 1977, more than 35 years after he was hired as an assistant superintendent of the downtown department store. He was promoted in 1949 to vice president in charge of maintenance, personnel, and purchasing.

In the 1950s, he was part of the planning for a store at Westgate Village Shopping Center, West Central Avenue and Secor Road.

"At the corner was nothing but a field," his wife, Marian, said. "One night he took the children and me and he pointed out through the field and said, 'We're going to build a store here.'●"

Once the store opened in 1957, he helped foster camaraderie among the store staff.

"He kept telling them over and over, 'The customer is always right. You must remember this,'●" his wife said. "He created a feeling of goodwill in [that] area of town that was unprecedented."

He also guided the store as it grew from 90,000 square feet when it opened to 191,000 square feet, with the addition of a third floor and other expansions.

Mr. Faber was at the Westgate store by 8 each morning. He came home for dinner, but returned to work Mondays and Thursdays and wasn't through until 10 p.m. The quality of merchandise and the store's appearance were paramount. He had each burned out light bulb changed instantly.

"He was a classy guy," said Molly Jakubec, a 30-year Lion Store employee who retired in 1992 as human resources director of the Westgate store.

"He was not a man who would be ostentatious. He had probably the smallest office in the store," Mrs. Jakubec said. "He simply was a marvelous merchant. He had high goals. The Westgate store was the highest selling store in all of [the] Mercantile [Stores chain]. The store had to look perfect. The merchandise had to look neat and well stocked. He would walk through the store and point out things that others couldn't see."

Dillard's Inc. bought the chain in 1998.

Mr. Faber grew up at Ashland Avenue and Bancroft Street, where his father and an uncle had a drug store. He was a 1933 graduate of Scott High School. He received a bachelor of business administration degree in 1938 from the University of Toledo. He worked for a time at the Libbey-Owens-Ford Co.

An Army veteran of World War II, Mr. Faber was a two-term council member at Hope Lutheran Church. In retirement, he and his wife spent winters in Venice, Fla.

Surviving are his wife, Marian, whom he married April 5, 1941; son, Chuck Faber; daughters, Penny Sargent and Lynn Kampfer; six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Memorial services will be at 12:30 p.m. Saturday in Hope Lutheran Church, where the family will visit with friends afterward. Arrangements are by the Walker Funeral Home.

The family suggests tributes to the Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Hope Lutheran Church, or in Venice, Fla., Emmanuel Lutheran Church or Japanese Gardens Memorial Fund.

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