Photo Credit: Handout
Robert Eisen was a pillar of the American textile industry, a baseball enthusiast and Queens native with institutional knowledge about the borough of his upbringing, relatives said.
"My dad was a very modest man who accomplished much in his life," said his son John, of Garden City. "He was truly a member in good standing of 'the greatest generation.' "
He was born in Ridgewood, Queens, and the family soon moved to Glendale. At age 16, he graduated with honors in 1937 from Richmond Hill High School.
He began his career in textiles that year, when he was hired at Southeastern Cottons in New York City, making $15 per week. He worked full time while completing his degree in commerce from St. John's University in Brooklyn, graduating in 1942.
That year, Eisen entered the U.S. Navy, assigned to the Naval training school in Fort Schuyler. During the war, family members said, his ship survived the Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944 while escorting a merchant convoy from Guantanamo Bay, and in 1945 he was dispatched to Wake Island after the surrender of the Japanese.
In 1944, he married his girlfriend of two years, Lucille Eckart. After the war, he began work as a salesman for Greenwood Mills Inc., a large textile company based in South Carolina with an office in Manhattan, and was sent to open the company's Chicago office in 1950. In 1957, Eisen was promoted, and the family -- now with kids Robert Jr., John and Mary -- settled in Garden City.
Eisen became president of Greenwood Mills Marketing Co. in 1981.
That year, he received the Textile Man of the Year award from the New York Board of Trade, John Eisen said, and the next year, Eisen shared the stage with Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton when he received the same honor.
He served on the boards of several companies, and after his retirement in 1985, he spent a year in Washington, D.C., as a lobbyist for the textile industry.
Back at home, starting in retirement and for 20 years, Eisen put his encyclopedic knowledge of his native borough to work, writing a column for the Queens-based Times Newsweekly newspaper. "He enjoyed it, and judging from the many letters he received, I believe the readers enjoyed it," John Eisen said.
He stayed enthusiastic about baseball and the sports teams of his alma mater, and spent time bird watching, from Montauk Point to Jamaica Bay. In 1992, St. John's awarded him the honorary degree of doctor of commercial science.
Eisen was predeceased by his wife and his sister, Mildred McDermott. In addition to his son John, he is survived by son Robert Jr. of Garden City; daughter Mary Curtis of Massena; three grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.