The Eulogizer: Staples co-founder Leo Kahn, violinist Endre Wolf
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The Eulogizer: Staples co-founder Leo Kahn, violinist Endre Wolf

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Eulogizer is a new column (soon-to-be blog) that highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Learn about their achievements, honor their memories and celebrate Jewish lives well lived with The Eulogizer. Write to the Eulogizer at eulogizer@jta.org. Read previous columns here.

Leo Kahn, 94, entrepreneur and Staples co-founder

Entrepreneur Leo Kahn, a co-founder of Staples whose impact on the world of retailing can be found in offices and kitchens across the United States, died May 11 in Boston at 94.

Kahn co-founded Staples, now a $27 billion business, with a one-time competitor, Thomas Stemberg, in 1986, two years after selling the Purity Supreme supermarket chain, the Boston-based family business he built from a wholesale grocer into an $800 million company.

Stemberg and Kahn became friends who attended basketball games at their alma mater, Harvard, and then brainstormed ideas for niches in the retail world. After rejecting pantyhose, pet products, medical supplies and telephones as categories for a "super store" approach, they settled on office supplies.

Ever restless, in 1991 Kahn started Fresh Fields, a health-oriented grocery store he later sold to Whole Foods in 1996. In 1997 he opened Nature’s Heartland, a natural foods supermarket. Failures — the hallmark of a "serial entrepreneur" — included a discount auto parts store, a Legal Sea Foods fish market spinoff and an upscale grocery store in Phoenix.

Kahn once said in a talk that entrepreneurs must grow with their concepts and know when to change and when to be true to their original principles.

Business consultants and bloggers noted Kahn’s passing with lessons to be learned from his projects. Bruce Sanders wrote that a tribute to Kahn would be to "jazz up humdrum shopping."

Kahn was born in Medford, Mass., to parents from Lithuania, graduated from Harvard, earned a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University and worked as a newspaper reporter before service in the Army Air Corps during World War II. He established several endowed professorships at Harvard.

Endre Wolf, 97, violinist

Endre Wolf, a concert and orchestral violinist who had a major career in Europe after escaping the Nazis in World War II, died March 29 at 97.

Wolf performed throughout Europe and England in the years after the war, and his violin playing was called "eloquence and sheer wizardry." His performance of the Brahms Violin Concerto with the Sinfonia of London in 1958 is considered a landmark both for its performance and its use of stereo in the recording. A downloadable version is now available.

Wolf was born in what is now Chernivtsi in Ukraine and grew up in Hungary. He began playing violin as a boy. He was denied a university education in engineering because of quotas on Jews and received a passport to Sweden in 1936 after getting a letter of invitation to play with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. His aunt told Hungarian police: "Here is another opportunity to get rid of a Jew."

He performed throughout Sweden during the war and secured Swedish passports for his family, which kept them safe in Budapest.

After the war, Wolf taught and performed throughout Great Britain, as well as at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen and the Royal College of
Music in Stockholm. He performed on his 90th birthday in Sweden’s Lund Cathedral.