When newcomers to the Estee Lauder company met an executive named Ann Barathy, they would refer to her as "The Legend."

"She was highly respected," said her son Robert Barathy, 71. "A lot of people thought she was related to the Lauders."

Ann Barathy of Dix Hills, who started as a secretary and left as a company vice president after a 50-year career, died Feb. 26 at 94.

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Barathy joined the company in 1960 and formed close bonds with her employers. She began at an office in New Hyde Park and worked nearly all of her time at the Melville offices on Pinelawn Road, which opened in 1965.

Family described Barathy as devoted to the business. Had she suffered a scrape or cut, relatives might say: "We thought she was going to bleed Lauder blue," recalled Robert Barathy.

Barathy joined Estee Lauder after her children had grown. She dealt largely with Clinique, the makeup and skin care company, and handled customer service and order billings, her son said.

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Ann Stephanie Barathy was born on Dec. 26, 1920, and raised in an Italian community in East Harlem. An athlete, Barathy boxed and played softball as a teenager.

After she graduated from Julia Richman High School in Manhattan, Barathy worked at Columbia University, translating Italian classics, such as the writings of poet and scholar Giovanni Boccaccio, into English.

While her husband served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II, Barathy worked as a welder on a ship in a Navy yard in Brooklyn. Barathy's role coincided with a generation of "Rosie the Riveters."

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"She enjoyed it and was helping," Robert Barathy said. "It was unusual for a woman to be a welder."

She painted oil canvases, depicting scenes of animals exotic and wild, such as zebras, lions and leopards. She took classes and drew in the summer months, painting children and churches, too.

A blackjack whiz, she would depart for a casino "at the drop of a hat," her son said. She relished trips to Las Vegas and Atlantic City, visiting as recently as January.

In addition to Robert, Barathy is survived by her son Randy, of Dix Hills; a brother, Peter Margarita, of Commack; and three grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her husband, Robert, and son Richard. A funeral was held Monday at St. Elizabeth's Church in Melville.