Firefighters found the body of Charles Pollock, an eccentric and immensely talented furniture designer, Tuesday morning in the small home he owned in Queens following a fire, according to officials and a friend of the designer. He was 83.
Pollock was one of the leading industrial designers of the 1960s and 1970s, but had trouble working in a corporate environment and would disappear from public view for long periods, said Jerry Helling, a friend and president of Bernhardt Design in Manhattan. "He was the last of the renowned designers from that era," Helling said.
The FDNY said the body was found in the house on 157th Street near 115th Road in the Jamaica section. The fire was reported at 7:01 a.m. and was brought under control at 7:36 a.m., an FDNY spokesman said.
He said it was not immediately known where the body was found, but that an investigation, routine in all fire deaths, would be conducted. An NYPD spokesman said it appeared no criminality was involved.
Pollock created the Pollock Executive Chair in 1963 at a time when corporate offices were moving toward a sleek, modern look. It now sells for about $1,500 per chair. "He created one of the most iconic, well-known chairs of any era and then basically disappeared," Helling said.
The designer, who had bipolar disorder, moved into the Queens house about 18 months ago, Helling said. Although he was elderly and physically "fragile," he did not have medical problems, Helling said.
Delighted to have found Pollock, Helling produced a documentary on his life that is posted on his company's website and is available on YouTube.
Pollock was born in Philadelphia and moved as a youngster with his family to Toledo, Ohio, and then Detroit. His online biography said his family moved to Muskegon, Mich., when he was 16, though he remained in Detroit and lived in a small boardinghouse as he finished high school.
He went to work part time on the assembly line at Chrysler while in high school and later attended the School of Art and Design at Pratt Institute in New York on a scholarship.
Though Helling said Pollock never married and has no known relatives, a woman emailed Newsday last evening to say her mother had been married to Pollock from 1970 to 1985.
Charles Pollock, Maud Nordwalk Pollock and her daughter Lisa lived in a house in Jackson Heights, wrote the daughter, Lisa Keuchen, in the email.