A picture of Representative Sean Patrick Maloney
Sean M.
Democrat NY 18

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  • Remembering Lillian Vernon

    by Representative Sean Patrick Maloney

    Posted on 2015-12-18

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    MALONEY of New York asked and was given permission to address the House for 1 minute and to revise and extend his remarks.) Mr. SEAN PATRICK MALONEY of New York. Mr. Speaker, Lillian Vernon, a woman who personified the American Dream and inspired generations of girls and boys, passed away this week.

    Lillian was born Lilli Menasche in Leipzig, Germany, in 1927. Her family arrived here in 1937 after fleeing the new Nazi regime. She attended NYU for a couple of years before leaving to get married. And shortly after her nuptials, the newly pregnant Lillian gathered together what little wedding money she had to start a mail order business from her home in Mount Vernon, New York. She took the name Vernon as her own, and the Lillian Vernon Company was born.

    She put an advertisement in ``Seventeen'' magazine for a personalized purse and belt for $5; and within weeks, she had $34,000 dollars in orders.

    By 1970, Lillian Vernon had her first million-dollar year. A few decades later, she had nine catalogues, 15 outlet stores, two Web sites, a business-to-business division, and yearly revenue close to $300 million.

    She was a role model for women. She started her company when working mothers were often criticized and female entrepreneurs could rarely get credit. But undeterred, she persevered.

    She was also a trailblazer outside the business world and was known for her charity and her devotion to so many causes, including her dedication to the Lillian Vernon Foundation, which supports the U.S. Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, Literacy Volunteers of America, and a number of other charities. In 2011, Vernon was honored with the Project Sunshine Award for Philanthropic Leadership and was appointed by President Clinton as chairwoman of the National Women's Business Council in 1995.

    Above all, she was a mother. She was dedicated to her two sons, David and Fred, both of whom worked in the family business with her.

    I had the pleasure of meeting Lillian throughout the years. And I can say that even a reading of her accolades and accomplishments would fail to give a sense of just how special this wonderful woman truly was.

    We have lost a great American, and she will be sorely missed.


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