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Published: Tuesday, 7/25/2006

Store buyer was a 'Rosie Riveter' during WW II

Helen Rose Schwab, 81, a homemaker who was one of the many women of the Rosie the Riveter campaign during World War II and later made a successful career out of buying women's clothes for department stores around the country, died Tuesday in Bay Park Community Hospital from complications of congestive heart failure.

Mrs. Schwab, who started her career in the women's fashion industry soon after the end of World War II, worked on parts for Navy fighter planes at the Willys-Overland Co., her husband, Delbert Schwab, said.

"She was a very effervescent and outgoing person who had a natural knack for sales and especially women's clothing," her husband said.

She started her career of more than 30 years in buying women's clothing for the LaSalle & Koch Co. department store in Toledo in 1946.

"She started working there as a clerk and then she enrolled in their executive sales training program and did very well," Mr. Schwab recalled.

A first-generation American, she was born Helen Rose Molnar, the daughter of Hungarian immigrants, in Wheeler, Mich.

Her family moved to Toledo when she was young. She attended public schools and graduated from Waite High School in 1943.

She married Mr. Schwab, her high school sweetheart, on Jan. 30, 1943. Delbert went to Europe and served as a radio operator with a B-17 crew flying bombing missions during World War II. After the war they settled in Toledo. In 1960, she and her husband moved to Arizona, where she was the buyer for the former Goldwater's Department Store for many years.

"She excelled in the fashion world in New York and traveled to many cities around the world because of her honesty and her love of what she did," her husband said.

He said they returned to Toledo after Ms. Schwab retired as a corporate buyer for Amfac Inc., a Hawaii-based company in 1984.

A gourmet cook, she enjoyed reading cookbooks and was especially good at making Hungarian dishes, "because she learned from her mother," Mr. Schwab said.

She also enjoyed traveling during her retirement years and the couple visited all over Europe and North America, her husband recalled.

Surviving are her husband of 63 years, Delbert Schwab; son, Neptune, and a sister, Margaret Armstrong.

Visitation for Mrs. Schwab will be held Saturday at the Freck Funeral Chapel, 1155 South Wynn Rd., Oregon from 10 a.m. to noon when a memorial service will be held.

The family suggests tributes to the Shriners Hospitals for Children or a charity of the donor's choice.



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