More than 500 people gathered on Sunday in Westbrook, Maine, to pay respects to Leon Gorman, former president and chairman of family-owned L.L. Bean Inc, Maine’s trademark outdoor gear and clothing company, according to the Press Herald.
Gorman died Sept. 3 at age 80 after a months-long fight with cancer.
Gorman is credited with ushering the company into modernity and taking it from a struggling mail order catalog retailer with one storefront to an international leader in the outdoor industry.
Born in Nashua, New Hampshire, and raised in Yarmouth, Maine, Gorman graduated from Bowdoin College in 1956 and spent four years in the Navy before joining L.L.Bean in 1960.
After the death of his grandfather and company founder Leon Leonwood Bean in 1967, Gorman led the Freeport-based company for 34 years as president until 2001, when he stepped down to serve as the company’s chairman until his retirement in 2013.
“It was a real challenge. The first thing I really had to do is upgrade the product line. It was, you know, really obsolete,” Gorman told Maine Public Radio in 2006.
Gorman oversaw a number of influential transitions in the company including revamping the product line, converting the old mailing list to a computerized database, updating manufacturing and distribution facilities, introducing credit card services and around-the-clock customer service, and expanding the company both internationally and into ecommerce.
Under his leadership, company sales increased from less than $5 million in 1967 to $1.56 billion in 2013, and his employee numbers grew by the thousands.
All the while, Gorman never lost sight of the company’s core value in customer satisfaction, and L.L. Bean continues to offer a 100% satisfaction lifetime guarantee on all its products, which the company provided from the very start.
An avid outdoorsman like his grandfather, Gorman frequently tested his company’s products on outdoor trips and enjoyed hiking the Camden Hills in midcoast Maine, biking around Acadia National Park, and fly fishing in northern Maine.
Gorman is also well-known for his volunteer and philanthropic efforts, especially in the conservation community and was involved with numerous organizations like the Maine Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, the Appalachian Mountain Club, and Land for Maine’s Future. He also volunteered with the Preble Street Resource Center’s soup kitchen in Portland, Maine, every Wednesday morning for 12 years..
The center’s executive director, Mark Swann, spoke at Gorman’s memorial service Sunday and said Gorman, though the most powerful private person in Maine, dedicated himself to helping the poorest people with the least power.
“What a lesson from Leon for all of us,” he said, according to the Press Herald.
“In the end, that may be Leon’s greatest legacy, that he treats everyone, in business and in life, as a human being,” former Maine Gov. John McKernan said when Gorman was honored in 2010 by Bowdoin College. “The power and importance of that belief – of doing well by doing good – has proved its value over and over again.”