Woolrich president and CEO, Roz Brayton, collapses and dies

Roswell Brayton Jr., 55, president and CEO of Woolrich, passed away the afternoon of March 12 after collapsing at Woolrich headquarters in Woolrich, Pa. Brayton was rushed to Jersey Shore Hospital, where medical personnel were unable to revive him.
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Roswell Brayton Jr., 55, president and CEO of Woolrich, passed away the afternoon of March 12 after collapsing at Woolrich headquarters in Woolrich, Pa. Brayton was rushed to Jersey Shore Hospital, where medical personnel were unable to revive him.

Services will be held on March 15 at 7 p.m. at the Trinity Episcopal Church, 844 West Fourth Street in Williamsport, Pa. Memorial contributions may be made to the Brayton Family Scholarship Fund at Lycoming College, 700 College Place, Williamsport, PA 17701, or St. Jude Children's Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105-1905.

Roz (as he was known to his many friends) Brayton was born May 8, 1951, in Fall River, Mass. His family moved to Woolrich, Pa., in 1953 where Brayton attended the Woolrich Elementary School and Lock Haven Junior High School. He was a graduate of Milton Academy in Milton, Mass., and graduated from Harvard University in 1973.

After graduation from college, Brayton signed a professional baseball contract with the Boston Red Sox. He spent four years playing professional baseball before beginning his career with Woolrich in May 1977 as a sales representative. He covered the Kentucky and Indiana territories from 1978 through 1982. In 1983, he returned to the town of Woolrich to assume responsibilities in the accounting and finance department.

From 1982 to 1996, Brayton held various positions within the company, including treasurer and vice president of finance. He was named president in 1996 and CEO in 1997.

As president and CEO, Brayton directed a staff of seven vice presidents in management of all company divisions, including wholesale, direct-to-consumer, licensing, international, operations, woolen mill and finance. Brayton led Woolrich through some of the most dramatic changes in the company’s history. During his tenure, Woolrich expanded both international and domestic licensing, and launched new businesses in mail-order consumer catalogs, ecommerce, Woolrich home furnishings, and bottled water. He presided over the company’s 175th anniversary celebration in 2005.

Brayton was a member of the Trinity Episcopal Church in Williamsport, on the board of the Williamsport Municipal Authority, and was a member of the Williamsport Country Club, the Ross Club and Acoaxet Club in Westport, Mass. He also served as the director of the Northern Textile Association.

He resided with his wife, Sally, and son, Matthew, in Williamsport, Pa. He is survived by six grown sons and daughters: Nick, State College, Pa; Audrey, Keene, N.H.; Scott, New York, N.Y.; Valerie, Washington, D.C.; Alex, Nashville, Tenn.; and Julie, Louisville, Ky. He is also survived by two sisters, Charlotte Underwood and Anne Snyder, both of Westport, Mass.

SNEWS® View: We received the news of Roz's passing late Monday evening and though journalists are supposed to be steeled to this kind of reporting, we could not bring ourselves to write a story until Wednesday. Though we have, gratefully, innumerable friends among CEOs and company executives around the world, Roz was truly special. His level of integrity while speaking on and off the record coupled with his genuine warmth when conversing with our team transcended the typical CEO/journalist relationship…even the cozy ones. It was not uncommon for Roz to be the one initiating calls with SNEWS®.

If there is any bright light to be seen, it is in the knowledge that the company will continue on, as a reflection of the leadership, passion and inspiration Roz established among all members of his team.

In answer to the speculation voiced to SNEWS® regarding the company's executive leadership strength following Roz's passing, we can answer only that we do know that Woolrich had a succession plan in place -- as it should be with any well-run company. What shape that succession plan takes is still not finalized only because the executive team had been traveling around the globe and had to race back to the offices we were told. His son, Nick, currently one of the executive team, will likely play a stronger role now, and if he is anything like his father, that is a very good thing indeed.

Woolrich is a great company because of the team Roz built, a team that was led by a great man who left all of us too soon.

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