Retail executive Morgan Willcox Ayres II, 93, dies

Morgan Willcox Ayres II died at home after

Morgan Willcox Ayres II died at home after a long illness. He was 93. (Credit: handout)

Morgan Willcox Ayres II, a former retail executive and father of seven who ran his Sea Cliff home as smoothly as he did the floor of Bergdorf Goodman department store, died at home on Saturday after a long illness. He was 93.

Born in 1919, Ayres liked to tell people that he was "born on the dining room table" of his parents' Upper West Side apartment, said his youngest son, David Ayres, who is an acting State Supreme Court Justice in Nassau County.

Morgan Ayres' father, Daniel Roe Ayres, a prominent Manhattan obstetrician, died of tuberculosis when he was only 13. His mother, Florence Middleton Ayres, a nurse, was left to raise her two sons, Daniel, then 18, and Morgan, on her own.


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Morgan Ayres attended the Horace Mann and Trinity schools before enrolling at Columbia University. However, in 1942, Ayres and his older brother left school to enlist in the Army during World War II.

Morgan and Daniel Ayres were both part of the Allied invasion at Omaha Beach on D-Day, David Ayres said. Morgan Ayres, who reached the rank of major, served in the reserves after the war and was honorably discharged in 1952.

Soon after returning to Manhattan, Morgan Ayres began a career in retail, rising to become a vice president of Abraham & Straus and Bergdorf Goodman.

"He loved leading people," David Ayres said. "Whether it was leading men in the Army or leading a retail force, his organizational skills were insane."

Also after the war, Ayres enrolled in an opera-singing class with famed teacher Samuel Margolis. There he met Eda Maria Frigiolini, and the two married in 1948.

Over the next two decades, the couple moved from Manhattan to Lattingtown and finally to Sea Cliff with a growing brood of children -- seven in all.

"It was madness on Highland Avenue," David Ayres said of their Sea Cliff home. "I remember they would turn on the radio station WQXR when they played operas live from the Met, and everyone would sing along."

After retiring from retail in the 1980s, Morgan Ayres served as director of career services at Adelphi University in Garden City.

Ayres nursed his wife until she died in 1998. He then moved in with his son David in Greenvale, and spent his last years enjoying his grandchildren, studying history and knocking out the Sunday Times crossword in under an hour, David Ayres said. He died 30 years to the day after his older brother, David Ayres said.

In addition to David, Ayres is survived by six other children: Peter, of Miami; Christopher, of Berlin, Germany; Leslie Ayres Seiden, of Encinitas, Calif.; Timothy, of Sea Cliff; John, of Glenwood Landing; Jacqueline Ayres Powers, of Carlsbad, Calif.; and eight grandchildren.

A wake will be held at Whittings Funeral Home, 300 Glen Cove Ave., Glen Head, Thursday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. A funeral Mass will be celebrated Friday at 9:30 a.m. at St. Boniface Roman Catholic Church, 145 Glen Ave., Sea Cliff.

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