homepage logo

Richard S. Bell

Jun 19, 2015

Richard S. Bell, the man who more than any other single individual was responsible for building one of the mid 20th centurys most iconic outerwear brands and one of Gloucesters largest employers, MIGHTY-MAC, died peacefully on June 9 at his home surrounded by loving family and caregivers in the city that was his favorite place on earth. His death came exactly one year to the day after the death of his beloved wife of 72 years, Winnie Fay. Dick, as he liked to be called, was just shy of 103 years young. Born in a bathtub at his familys home on Washington Street in Gloucester on the 4th of July in1912, reportedly, as the holiday parade was just passing by, Dick was the oldest son and second born of Morris and Molly (Broder) Bell. He attended school locally, graduating from Gloucester High School in 1929, and Tilton Academy the following year. After two years at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, upon learning of his fathers terminal illness, he returned home to understudy his dad as the co-owner of Cape Ann Manufacturing Co., a Gloucester fishing industry outfitter and oilskin maker. Upon his father’s death in 1933, it did not take long for Dick to see the potential to leverage the principles upon which his dads business was built to address the needs of a much larger national and international market for sturdy, weatherproof outerwear and sportswear. Borrowing the money from the bank to buy out his fathers partner, and recruiting his younger brothers Harold and Brad to join him, Dick set out to build on the tradition of craftsmanship of Gloucesters talented immigrant labor force to create the worlds greatest outerwear. Taking its name from its first product, a Mackinaw, a heavy blanket-wool jacket of a style made popular by Canadian Mounties, MIGHTY-MAC, Out O Gloucester was born. For more than fifty years, Dick stayed at the helm of his beloved MIGHTY-MAC, building the product line and its reputation for quality and style into one of the nations largest mens and boys outerwear companies. Viewing its association with Gloucester and other Massachusetts working class towns as integral to the identity of MIGHTY-MAC, he steadfastly refused throughout the 60s. 70s and 80s, despite daunting competitive pressure, to move the manufacturing process offshore to access cheaper sources of labor and materials, choosing instead to invest in a broad array of Gloucester real estate and thereby to deepen his commitment to his beloved homeport. For decades, Dick travelled routinely spending most weeks of the year at his offices in NYC, returning home on Fridays to spend the weekend in his offices in Gloucester, Lawrence or Taunton. He was known for his merchandising and marketing pizzazz, for example, presaging the Red Sox by more than 50 years, in 1960 he developed a campaign wherein his marketing and sales team all grew Gloucester fisherman-style beards and were featured in MIGHTY-MAC ads. Dick never again took his off and was known for his mustache-less beard for the rest of his life. Among the many professional accomplishments of which he was most proud were: MIGHTY-MAC earning the Army E for the work it did to make uniforms for the military during WWII; winning recognition repeatedly as Merchandiser of the Year by menswear manufacturing trade organizations; having his line of code flag jackets photographed by world famous photographer Gordon Parks, Jr. and featured in a centerfold double spread in Life Magazine in 1961; undertaking a Trade Mission to Europe on behalf of President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965; creating and sponsoring the Cape Ann Tuna Tournament as a novel way to unveil his new line of MIGHTY-MAC each year, attracting hundreds of journalists and buyers from across the US and abroad to Gloucester for successive annual Tournaments/fashion presentations during the mid-late 60s; securing the dashing French Olympic champion Jean Claude Killy as brand spokesman for MIGHTY-MAC skiwear in 1969; and serving as an early member of the Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and President of its 49rs New England chapter during the 70s. As busy as he was at MIGHTY-MAC and as the father of six children, Dick also found the time and energy to give back to the city he so loved. Serving as the founding Chairman of the Festival of the Arts, throughout the 50’s and 60s, he used his executive skill and promotional savvy to organize and run these recurring outdoor special events recently celebrated in a special exhibition at the Cape Ann Museum. In 1973, he returned to Chair Gloucesters 350th Anniversary, celebrating his deep affection for the city he coined Port of Charm. More recently, he was touched and honored to be asked to serve as a marshall of the 1990 Horribles Parade. His love of woodworking and working in the yard served him well over the years, as he endeavored continuously through hands-on effort to enhance his familys comfort and living spaces. Initially, he made a home for them in a cottage on the Annisquam River, which he rebuilt and named The Winnie Way, after his beautiful Southern bride. As the family grew, he moved them to what at the time was an historic but down-at-the-heels antique, the Stage Coach House on Essex Avenue, now home to Wellspring. One of the ten oldest houses in America still standing on its original site, Dick and Winnie did much of the renovating and renewing of this special property themselves, and found their beautiful home and gardens featured in numerous articles and magazines, including National Geographic in 1955. Their last homestead, a stately yellow ochre Greek revival home overlooking the harbor on Eastern Point Boulevard, was perhaps Dicks favorite and most lovingly maintained. As devoted as they were to Gloucester, for 25 years up until just recently when they insisted on returning home, Dick and Winnie also maintained a retreat on Foridas Sanibel Island, where they enjoyed many happy times just the two of them together, interrupted by frequent visits from family. In addition to his wife Winnie (Lumpkin), Dick was predeceased by his parents and by his siblings, Beatrice Bell Albert, Harold Bell and Bradley Bell and by his son in law, Austin B. Mason, and his daughter in law, Annie Weld Bell. He leaves daughters, Sue Ann Rosenthal and her husband Alan, Amy Bell Ross and her partner Richard P. Mills, Connie Mac Bell Mason, and Dicsee Bell Bridges and her husband Stephen; and sons, Mac Stewart Bell and Rodd S. Bell and his wife Gabriella, twelve grandchildren and eight great grandchildren. Known over his 100+ years by a variety of namesItchy and sometimes even Scratchy while at GHS, Hippie Dippie Dick by his children during the 70s, and Popeye to his grandchildren and great grandchildren in recent years, he liked best being called Dick Bell of Gloucester. And that is how he will be remembered. Arrangements: In keeping with his ecumenical outlook, there will be no formal services. An opportunity to commemorate the lives of Winnie and Dick Bell will be announced at a future time. In lieu of flowers, donations in their names may be made to any worthy cause or charity of choice.