Barbara Turf, former CEO, past President, and Head Merchant for Crate and Barrel passed away after a short battle with cancer last week.  I felt it was important to write a tribute to her, as she was a Mentor, Leader, and Friend to me my entire Crate and Barrel career.  At the funeral last week, people she touched came from around the world to celebrate her amazing life of love and laughter.  I share some of the links to the articles written as a tribute to her and also to share some key thoughts that resonated with me from the day of celebrating Barbara.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/winnetka-northfield-glencoe/chi-barbara-turf-former-crate-and-barrel-ceo-dies-at-71-20140713,0,2048756.story

Gordon Segal, founder of Crate and Barrel,  shared his thoughts in Crains Business Journal.

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I know this is a crazy picture but it captures Barbara being WHITE HATTED in Calgary.  The custom represents western hospitality and Barbara was a good sport, having fun in her hat.  This was a perfect award for Barbara, who was the leader in hospitality way before Martha Stewart.  The first party I attended was at her apartment 40 years ago.  She made plates and plates of lasagna and pasta, lots of wine, and dressed in a long Marimekko dress which was covered in tomato sauce by the end of the night…always having fun and serving lots of food to lots of people. Everyone welcome!

To quote from the current CEO “Barbara embraced life to the fullest and lived by her passions.  She touched thousands of associates and developed invaluable relationships with vendors across the globe.  Barbara’s eye for style, trend and design defined the merchandising and marketing vision of Crate and Barrel. Her extraordinary talent, her passion for product, her unique personality and love of people will be long remembered as cornerstones of Crate and Barrel.”  

We shared in our sorrow stories of why she made such an impact on us as we grew our leadership careers together. When you had a meeting with her, she completely focused on you…like there was no one else in the room and she had all the time in the world. The meeting started personally, asking about you, asking questions, she wanted to know what you were thinking. She listened intently, the conversation personal and enjoyable and she had a steel trap mind.  She really got to know you.  THEN, you would talk about the business and issue at hand.  Because of this keen interest, you felt like you could share whatever…secrets really… she crawled inside your head to get the real meaning of you.  This laid the foundation for her intuition.  She trusted you to do your job and go outside the parameters. Ideas were created and shared. Barbara built the organization around people’s talents, what they wanted to do, where their strengths were, and therefore moved people into the positions that were good for the company and good for the person.  This created loyalty, longevity, happiness and high morale. You made a difference and were proud.  And she always gave you credit for what you did and appreciated hard work.

One vendor told me that the relationship was so joyful that he wanted to create products that Barbara would buy, and then go out to dinner and celebrate.  Not an adversarial relationship like other companies…and this created the loyalty with vendors and suppliers.

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We were all part of her Crate family…a picture of Barbara with Leslie, one of my friends and colleagues. You work closely with someone for days and days, travel together, and have respectful debate and then drink wine and have fun…discover together…and create lasting memories.

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And now her son Ryan is head merchant at CB2 and will carry on the creative legacy…as her family, husband, sons and daughter and extended family are part of her sphere of influence.  Father Kevin, who attended the seminary after working with us at Crate for 17 years gave one of the eulogies.  Barbara gave us the gift of her love of life, her laughter, creativity, sharing, hospitality, and enjoying each person for what they do and who they are, no matter if it is the person unloading a truck for a CEO of distinction.  Regular people doing regular things, and contributing. This was the gift she gave to us, and therefore Father Kevin encouraged us to share this gift with others as we continue with our lives.

And on a lighter note, she loved to spend money on fashion, on gifts, on her home to create beauty and comfort, on food, dining,  and wine and her motto,

was ‘Just Write the Check’…

I toast Barbara and to all of us to continue to live her legacy and to toast “TO NOW“…

(donations to University of Chicago Initiative on Pancreatic Cancer)