By Furniture Today Staff -- Furniture Today, August 26, 2007
Buck Higgins, longtime Vaughan-Bassett exec
Galax, Va. — Carlisle W. "Buck" Higgins Jr., former president and chairman of case goods manufacturer Vaughan-Bassett Furniture and the company's longest-serving employee, has died. He was 89.
Higgins joined Vaughan-Bassett in 1939 after graduating from the University of North Carolina, and spent the next 68 years at the company. He was president and CEO from 1963 to 1985 and was board chairman until this year.
Doug Bassett, a great-nephew of Higgins and an executive at Vaughan-Bassett, said about 200 people attended the funeral here. Pallbearers were Doug Bassett, his brother Wyatt and Bernie Rector, all of Vaughan-Bassett, and Bill, Taylor and David Vaughan of Vaughan Furniture.
"Wyatt and I loved going into his office and telling him about how the business was doing or some client we had sold," recalled Doug Bassett. "Inevitably, he had a story from 50 years ago about working with the same company."
Bunyan Vaughan started Vaughan-Bassett in 1919. His two daughters married Buck Higgins and Wyatt Exum, who took over running the company after serving as pilots in World War II.
Higgins came to work every day for six decades until health concerns forced him to cut back last year. Doug Bassett said he still would come into the office often to check in.
"What really came out at the funeral was what a good citizen he was," Bassett said. After his first wife died in 1971, Buck donated a set of hand bells to First Baptist Church in her honor. At his funeral service, those same bells played "Amazing Grace."
He also served on the board of the Wytheville Community College Educational Foundation. Memorial donations may be made to the foundation, 1000 E. Main St., Wytheville, Va. 24382.
Higgins' survivors include his wife, two daughters and two grandchildren.
Jack Hafkey, Barcalounger and Motion Only
Rhinelander, Wis. — Jack Hafkey, a motion furniture innovator and former Barcalounger executive, has died. He was 73.
Hafkey, a native of Iowa, worked as a regional manager for Maytag before joining recliner specialist Barcalounger, where he spent 18 years in a variety of positions from national sales manager to senior vice president.
In 1989, he founded Motion Only to focus on developing innovative products. There, he co-designed the patented ChaiseLounger mechanism with Clark Rogers. The company's sales grew to over $2 million with 325 retail accounts by 1992, when the Motion Only line was licensed to Dansen subsidiary Markwood Inc.
In 1997, American Leather became the exclusive manufacturer of the ChaiseLounger and incorporated it into existing products in its line.
"Jack really helped me and was a great source of advice and wisdom," said American Leather CEO Bob Duncan. "He was just a really good man whom I could trust and who I knew just wanted to help me."
Duncan added, "He was also very passionate about our industry. He was fascinated with every aspect of the furniture business and stayed involved in it throughout his lifetime. I will really miss his friendship and counsel."
Hafkey is survived by his wife, two sons, one daughter and 12 grandchildren.
Memorials may be made to St. Jude Children's Research Center, www.stjude.org/tribute.
Robert Serpentelli, Frontier store founder
Toms River, N.J. — Robert "Bob" Joseph Serpentelli, founder of retailer Frontier Furniture in Howell, N.J., has died. He was 73.
Serpentelli was a carpenter and sold cars and then houses before opening Frontier in 1963.
He operated the store for nearly 40 years before retiring due to illness. Frontier has since closed.
Serpentelli's son followed him into the industry and is a salesman for Value City Furniture in New Jersey. His grandson Joseph is in sales with New Jersey retailer Seaside Furniture.
Serpentelli also is survived by his wife, two other sons, one daughter, three other grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, two brothers and three sisters.
Memorials may be made to the Robert Serpentelli Memorial Fund, C/O PNC Bank, 9 Wrangle Brook Road, Toms River, N.J. 08755.
Laurence Morton Jr., veteran retailer, rep, mfr.
Springfield, Tenn. — Laurence Morton Jr., a veteran of some 50 years in the furniture industry, has died. He was 85.
Morton was a veteran of World War II, and after the war opened retailer Morton and Brown Furniture here. He operated the business until it was destroyed by fire in the late 1950s.
He then worked as a sales representative for Gaines Mfg. Co. in McKenzie, Tenn. His relationship with the company and its leader, Ben Gaines, lasted more than 40 years, until Morton's retirement at age 73.
He also was a partner in F&M Furniture Mfg. in Lafayette, Tenn., with his friend Richard Friedman, for more than 30 years.
He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Doris, who helped him in his business; two sons and a grandson. His son Steve is a sales rep for Standard Furniture, and son Scott operates a furniture distributorship, Best Sellers Distributors, in Springfield.