In Memoriam: Stephen Freeman, Line Builder and Sales Rep for Ara Dies at 64

Aug. 23, 2020: Stephen Freeman, line builder and U.S. sales representative for Ara Shoes, died on August 23 after a battle with cancer. He was 64.

The industry veteran began his career working at his father’s shoe factory in New England, a job that led him to retail jobs at Thom McAn and Vanguard Shoes in Newton, Mass. He went on to found his own rep agency, selling Rockport shoes in New Jersey. He continued in sales and line building at brands including Sudini, Mephisto and Arche. Before joining Ara, he led his own footwear brand, Andare, which he co-launched with Holden Nagelberg.

Noted Sam Spears, president Ara North America, “Stephen was and will forever be loved by every retailer with whom he worked. His life was footwear retail and he conducted over 80 trunk shows per year. An exceptional footwear professional and personality who will be deeply missed, he eagerly shared his abundant knowledge of the art of selling and impacted many lives.”

March 6, 2020: Lisa N. Geil-Bazinet, former EVP of marketing for Vionic Group, died on March 6 after a battle with lung cancer. She was 55 years old.

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The industry veteran’s career focused on marketing and brand building, including tenures at The Rockport Co. and Birkenstock, before joining the comfort brand, Vionic, where she was employed from 2008 to 2019.

Her personal passions included volunteer work for the San Francisco Symphony Junior Committee and serving as event coordinator for several fundraising events at St. Brigid School in San Francisco. She was a member and former elder of St. John’s Presbyterian Church in San Francisco and a founder of the St. John’s Harvest Food Pantry.

She is survived by her husband and industry veteran Dan Bazinet, son Dominic, and parents Ellen and Ron Geil.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Lung Cancer Research Foundation or to the San Francisco chapter of Dress for Success.

Feb. 5, 2020: Gloria Cansino Weiner Adams, co-founder of Saxon Shoes in Richmond, Va., died on Feb. 5 from a battle with congestive heart failure. She was 89.

Weiner Adams and her first husband, Jack Weiner, opened the store in 1953. Her eye for fashion and her organizational skills caught the attention of competitors who were known to shadow her at trade shows. In addition to her buying skills, she was able to sketch each shoe she bought in order to keep a running list each season.

After Weiner’s passing in 1991, Weiner Adams married Arthur Adams, who died in 1998. She is survived by her son Gary Weiner; daughter Susan Weiner Adolph; stepsons Brian and Sidney Adams, five grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.

Today, Weiner Adams’ son Gary Weiner serves as president and CEO of Saxon Shoes.

July 26, 2019: William Wolff, former president of Wolff Shoe Co., St. Louis, Mo., has died at the age of 94 of natural causes. Wolff served in this role for decades, until he was succeeded by his son, Gary Wolff. As the son of the company’s founder, he began running the business in the 1940s, overseeing seven domestic factories. He later spearheaded the company’s transition to overseas manufacturing in Italy, Spain and China. Today, the company, which produces the Van Eli and Sesto Meucci labels, is run by Gary’s son, S. Todd Wolff.

Wolff is survived by his son Gary, daughter-in-law Sherry, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

July 1, 2019: Fashion designer Khalid Al Qasimi, born Sheikh Khalid bin Sultan Al Qasim, has passed away at the age of 39.

The son of the ruler of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, Qasimi founded and served as creative director of his eponymous brand, Qasimi, debuting his first collection in 2008. He completed degrees in both architecture and fashion design at Central Saint Martins.

A three-day mourning ceremony has been declared, with flags in the country ordered to fly half-mast in honor of the designer.

May 26, 2019: Duncan Finigan, global head of brand management and marketing at Oofos, has died after a battle with breast cancer. She was 59.

Finigan launched her career at Reebok International as a marketing intern upon graduating from Boston College, where she earned a degree in business. Over the next 16 years, she was tasked with leading strategic brand and marketing initiatives for nine footwear categories, eventually being named VP of the performance division.

Duncan left Reebok in 2000 to serve as VP of brands at Atsco Footwear Group. In 2004, she went on to become GM of wholesale at Stride Rite.

She is survived by her husband, four sons, three brothers and three sisters. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be sent to Duncan’s Pan Mass Challenge for the benefit of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute at 77 4th Ave., Needham, Mass., 02494.

Jan. 30, 2019: Rudolph V. Schoenecker, whose career spanned both retail and wholesale, has died at 82.

He began his career as president of Carl A. Biwer and Westowne Shoes Inc., which operated 13 family shoe stores and leased departments and Naturalizer locations. He went on to serve as president of the Northwest Shoe Retailers Association, holding the post from 1984 to 1990.

Upon retiring, Schoenecker returned to the industry from 1995 to 2006 as an account representative for Ros Hommerson, covering the Northern U.S. market.

He is survived by his wife, Barbara, six children and 12 grandchildren.

Memorials in honor of Schoenecker can be made to Marquette University High School in Milwakuee, Angels Grace Hospice in Oconomowoc, Wis., and the Two Ten Footwear Foundation.

March 4, 2018: Earl L. “Buddy” Katz, chairman of Encore Shoe Corp. and manufacturer for Zodiac USA, passed away in his sleep at 99.

Katz got his start in the industry as a footwear buyer for his battalion during his service with the U.S. Army in World War II. Following the war, Jack Sandler from the New England shoe manufacturer Sandler of Boston asked him if he wanted to go into the shoe business.

Katz went on to start Encore Shoe Corp. in 1962, making shoes for labels such as Pappagallo and Capezio. He eventually started his own brand, Zodiac USA, a company which would later become a pioneer in placing computerized decorative Western stitching on boots.

The family suggests that donations in Katz’s memory be made to the Two Ten Footwear Foundation or to a charity of the donor’s choice.

Katz is survived by his children — James Katz, Ronald Katz and Jody Skaff — as well as his beloved grandchildren.

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