Isothermal to Host November 12th Memorial Service Honoring Textile Giant Andrew Major
Furniture World Magazine
Andrew Major, one of the world's most successful textile entrepreneurs, passed on October 15 after a long illness. Major of New York City, formerly of Rutherford County, was the past owner/president of Mastercraft. Isothermal Community College will host a memorial service in his owner on Friday, November 12 from 4-6 PM in The Foundation on the Isothermal Community College campus in Spindale, NC. According to Isothermal officials and the Major family, textile giants from across the country are among those expected to attend. The service, while open to the public, is expected to draw many who knew or worked for Major locally, regionally and nationally.
Major is survived by his beloved wife, Flora, of 27 years, as well as daughter, Katherine Major Firman and son, Nicholas Major. In lieu of flowers, Major's widow, Flora Major, asks that contributions be sent to the Andrew Major Scholarship Fund at Isothermal Community College, P.O. Box 804, 286 ICC Loop Road, Spindale, N.C.
Andrew Major will be buried on November 2 in a private family funeral in Arlington National Cemetery, having served as a decorated veteran of the Pacific theater in the U.S. Army. Born in Hungary and educated in Switzerland and England, Major joined the Mastercraft Weaving Corporation in New Jersey as a trainee and in 1960, became head of the company which had moved to North Carolina. In 1969, Major acquired Mastercraft, the firm he joined as a youth after immigrating to America from his native Hungary. In 1976, Major sold the business to Collins & Aikman and five years later, became president of C&A's decorative fabrics group. As president, he steered its seven plants and worked alongside his 6,000 employees as both a leader and as a genuine friend.
He was known throughout the world as an innovator, leader, and thinker far beyond his influence locally on textile manufacturing. Many associates and former competitors referred to him as the 'Upholstery King.'
Major was one of the first in the textile industry to recognize the necessity of continuous modernization of facilities and equipment. Realizing that success was directly related to a company's ability to dominate in product development, technology, innovation, styling and quality, Andrew Major became a preeminent textile pioneer, and Mastercraft flourished as the best of the best.
Upon retiring in 1994, the original Mastercraft plant which he had built was renamed in his honor. His retirement was short-lived when he founded Cone Jacquards for Cone Mills. Within five years time, from 1996-2000, Cone had sales of $50 million and was profitable. The Majors had left Rutherfordton for Farmville, NC near Durham and later moved to Charlotte before permanently moving in 1997 to New York City, where they had maintained a second residence for many years. In 1999, Major was elected to the board of Joan Fabrics Corp., Lowell, MA.
Major, a lifelong art lover and collector of fine art from across the world, had donated dozens of pieces to Isothermal Community College over the years. Earlier this year, Flora Major, was on-hand to oversee the opening of a permanent display in the couples' honor in the Library on the Isothermal campus. Andrew Major was too ill at the time to make the journey from New York City to Spindale. The art and artifacts of the Andrew and Flora Major collection donated to Isothermal Community College are permanently displayed and are available for public viewing.
Earlier this year in a conversation from their New York City home, Andrew and Flora Major talked openly about their love of Rutherford County, North Carolina and Isothermal Community College. Andrew remarked, “We spent thirty years in North Carolina, most of them in Rutherfordton. We had such a good time there, such good friends, so many warm memories.” Flora Major said this region was “very close to his heart.” Andrew said his time in Rutherfordton was “the best time of our lives. It was simply a lovely existence. Everyone there is dear to our hearts.” Flora Major, who took a few classes at Isothermal when the Majors lived nearby, said fondly, “We loved the college and what it offered to so many.” The couple called the art donation to Isothermal, “something we wanted to do and provide to the good people there.”
Aiding Flora Major in preparing for the November 12 memorial service at Isothermal are long-time friends and business associates, Jim and Michaele Garner of Spartanburg, SC. Michaele, who visited Isothermal earlier this week, spoke passionately about the love Andrew Major had for his employees and his work. The Garners, who traveled to New York City a few short months prior to Major's death, returned last week to be with Flora Major. In Associated Press wire reports from around the country, Jim Garner, who worked with Major at Cone and Mastercraft some twenty years, and is today a consultant to International Textile Group, owner of Cone Jacquards, remarked, “The industry suffers today because of not having more people like him. He was a visionary and motivator of every level of employee. There was no employee who was not on his list of people he cared about. I never met a man in business like Andy,”
Major was the recipient of numerous industry and civic awards, including the first Lifetime Leadership Award from DuPont in 1995, which embodied his creativity, devotion and legendary status in the fabrics industry. In 2002, he received 'The Trailblazer Award' and was inducted into the American Furniture Hall of Fame in high Point, NC. He also served as a mentor to many young designers, including Wesley Mancini, Stanley King and Carl Miller. One of Major's favorite Miller patterns was 'Lilly Pond,' which sold many millions of yards in the furniture industry.