Donald W. Gross, a former executive at the 74-year-old family-run Genovese Drug Stores Inc., died of congestive heart failure Tuesday in Manhasset. He was 92.
Gross worked for 23 years at the retail pharmacy chain before his retirement in 1997. Gross was often quoted in news articles about the company's strategies for navigating a changing marketplace.
“Genovese was better off with Don,” said Leonard Genovese, Gross’ brother-in-law and former chief executive and president of the company, which grew to have 141 locations and revenue of $880 million before its 1998 sale to JCPenney. “He was a wonderful listener, which is what made him so effective when he communicated with the customer.
"Of all the people I’ve ever worked with I don’t recall Donald ever saying anything bad about someone else,” Genovese said.
Gross was born in a house in Little Neck and spent the last 60 years of his life living in Manhasset.
He graduated from Regis High School in Manhattan and joined the United States Navy. After his service, he continued his education at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, and briefly attended St. John’s Law School.
Gross worked for 25 years in textiles at Borg Textile Corp. and Milliken & Company before joining the drugstore chain. While at Genovese, he served in several executive positions, including vice president of marketing and executive secretary.
He supported several philanthropic causes during his working life and in retirement, and was on the boards of Boys Hope Girls Hope and Abilities Inc.
Son J. Robert Gross of South Huntington remembers the support his father and mother provided to people in need, including unwed teenage mothers, whom the couple would often house and support out of their Long Island home.
“He was an old-style true gentleman,” he said. “Everybody loved him because he was such a personable man and generous with his time . . . He was just generous and supportive of everybody.”
Gross was “a gentle guy” who enjoyed classical music, golf, and talking sports, his son said.
In 1953, Gross married Marie Genovese, daughter of the pharmacy chain founder Joseph Genovese. They were married for 51 years until her 2004 passing.
Gross is also survived by children Donald Gross Jr. of Manhattan, Cathleen Gross Trombino of Huntington Station, Maria Gross Liedlich of Barrington, Illinois, as well as 13 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
A visitation at the Fairchild Funeral Chapel at 1570 Northern Blvd. in Manhasset will be held from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and again from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on March 31. A memorial mass will be held at 10 a.m., April 2 at St. Mary Catholic Church located at 1300 Northern Blvd. in Manhasset.