OBITUARY: Eugene C. McCaffery

McCaffery, Gene A larger than life self-made man in both personality and stature, standing 6’3″, who can be identified by his love of country, quiet philanthropy, visionary and executive leadership, and his self-deprecating humor, passed away on December 27, 2010. He was 62.

Preceded in death by parents Eugene and Anne McCaffery.

Survived by siblings, Gerard and Nancy; his loving wife, Rebecca and her beautiful girls Alexa 17, Kayla 14, and Sophie 10, who he raised as his own children.

Throughout his professional career, McCaffery held senior executive positions with leading private and publicly traded companies in the retail industry.

Not the stereotypical Silicon Valley visionary by manner or by experience, nor the quintessential business school executive, McCaffery grew up a tough kid in the Bronx, NY and took 7 years of night school before graduating while working as a stock boy with S. Klein, a Manhattan department store.

In 1968, he was drafted into the Army and commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant after Infantry Officer Candidate School. He commanded an Infantry platoon and Rifle company in Vietnam with the 25th Infantry Division, spending three quarters of his tour in combat. He also trained at the School of the America’s in the Panama Canal Zone and at the Infantry schools in Fort Benning, GA, before his discharge in 1971.

After his tour of duty, McCaffery returned to S. Klein and later spent 14 years at Montgomery Ward, a $7 billion retail chain, ultimately rising to the company’s #2 position. During this time, he also served as Vice Chairman of the Signature Group, one of the nation’s largest insurance and direct marketing companies.

McCaffery was then CEO and managing partner of Marketing Advocates, a celebrity-driven product and service development company with offices in Los Angeles and Chicago. He negotiated retail advertising and merchandising contracts for celebrities with talent agencies and retail stores.

In 1998, McCaffery joined Minneapolis-based ValueVision Media, which owns and operates the premium interactive retailer ShopNBC. During his 5-year tenure as Executive Chairman and CEO, he turned the company into one of the top performers among Minnesota’s publicly held companies.

Complementary to his executive legacy, McCaffery served as a senior advisor on several boards. These included Chairman of the Board and a principal of the Gibson Restaurant Group, a premier group of restaurants based in Chicago’s Gold Coast. The GRG Group owns and operates Gibsons Steakhouse, Hugo’s Frog Bar, Luxbar, and Quartino restaurants. He served on the Board of Ralph Lauren Media during the development of, and he served as Chairman of the Board and principal of Mobival, a mobile technology company located in Tel Aviv.

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He was also a Consumer Industry Advisor for London-based investment banking firm Livingstone Partners, where he focused on U.S. restaurant and retail sectors via its Chicago office. McCaffery also served on the boards of numerous civic and not-for-profit organizations. Charitable boards, directors, and affiliations included the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, USO (United Services Organization), Special Olympics President (Chicago), Mercy Hospital (Chicago), St. Mary’s Hospital (Chicago), New York Law Enforcement Foundation, Patrolman Benevolent Association, Illinois Veterans Association, and The Military Service Academy’s Admissions Screening Committee.

In 1991, McCaffery was appointed as Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army during the George H.W. Bush (41) Administration, a position he held for seven years. As Civilian Aide, he served as a liaison between the Department of Defense and State and Local governments, addressing issues like base closings, disaster relief, and Veterans issues.

In addition to McCaffery’s active corporate, civic and philanthropic endeavors, he was a quiet supporter of local and national Republican politics yet highly spirited in his debate on the topic. His favorite music was 50s Doo Wop, which led him at times behind the piano, even carrying the classic vocal harmonic tunes from that era, like “Rip Van Winkle” by the Devotions.

He was an exotic and high performance car enthusiast with a proclivity for the late model 911 Porsche. A furious reader, his thirst for political books and spy action novels was insatiable. His benevolence for selflessly helping others, from all walks of life, was both noble and admirable. And his passion for tennis kept him active on the court and in fact drew him to finding his true love in wife Rebecca. Together, they made the most of life and in doing so shared their love of tennis, golf and politics. But most of all, they found the greatest happiness in being a family with the girls.

A Celebration of Gene McCaffery’s life will be held in Chicago and Minneapolis. Services in Chicago held on Monday, January 3, 2011 from 3-5 pm, Old St. Patrick’s Church (700 W. Adams St., Chicago, IL 60661, 312-648-1021) with ceremony at 5pm, reception at 6pm, Gibson’s Bar & Steakhouse (1028 North Rush Street, Chicago, IL 60611, 312-266- 8999). Services held in Minneapolis on Wednesday, January 5 with visitation from 5-8 pm, St. Martin’s by-the-Lake Episcopal Church (2801 Westwood Road, Minnetonka Beach, MN 55361, 952-471-8429); funeral Thursday, Jan. 6 at 11 am, Wayzata Community Church (125 Wayzata Blvd. E., Wayzata MN 55391, 952-473-8877), reception at 12 pm, The Lafayette Club (2800 Northview Road, Minnetonka Beach, MN 55361, 952-471-8493). Remains to be interred at Arlington National Cemetery. Donations: Family asks that gifts be made in Gene McCaffery’s name to Misericordia, a Chicago-based care community for children and adults with developmental and physical disabilities (6300 N. Ridge Blvd., Chicago, IL 60660).

David Lee Funeral Home
Wayzata 952-473-5577

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