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ALAMO, Calif. -- William Hugh Dyer Jr., retail industry leader and WWII Purple Heart Veteran, died at his home here on Dec. 7 at the age of 89, after a long illness.
Dyer had been chairman and c.e.o. of Lucky Stores during a period of robust growth for the chain.
Born on March 16, 1918 in Newport Ark., Dyer moved with his mother and stepfather to southern California in 1933 at the age of 15. His goal was to become a lawyer, but in order to help out the family, he took a job at Swenson's Markets after school and did everything from unloading trucks, sacking beans and sugar, and mopping the floor for 20 cents an hour.
After three years with Swenson Markets and graduating from Wilson High School in Long Beach, Calif., a friend got him a job at the brand-new, 10,000-square-foot Dollar Market store located in North Long Beach. Owned by Thomas "Irv" Levine, it was the start of a career and close relationship that would see Dyer rise as an industry leader in the retail field and be elected as chairman and c.e.o. of Lucky Stores some 35 years later in 1971.
While attending UCLA to get to law school, Dyer enrolled in the Navy reserve program. In February of 1941, he was sent to the U.S. Navel Academy in Annapolis, Md. to complete his training, and by May of that same year became a commissioned Ensign. By mid-June, Dyer was serving on the USS Gregory reporting for duty in Quantico, Va.
Dyer later met Annette Glover, and the two planned to marry in December of 1941. But after the attack at Pearl Harbor, the USS Gregory was ordered to San Diego, Calif. The two married on Feb. 27, 1942 before he shipped out.
In December of 1945 Dyer concluded his service with the Navy with a rank of Lt. Commander. When he returned to Long Beach to visit Levine, who now had four Dollar Market Stores, he was immediately rehired as personnel manager.
One month later, Levine had a serious heart attack and offered the position of v.p. and general manager of Dollar Stores to Dyer. Dollar Stores was acquired by Golden State Dairies, and then Foremost Dairies acquired GSD in 1956. At that time Dyer was named v.p. and general manager of the Dollar and Jim Dandy store chain run by Foremost.
Foremost owned 25 percent of Lucky Stores, Inc. at the time, and later that same year, merged its 44-store Lucky Food Stores chain with Western Industries. Dyer was elected v.p. and a director of Lucky Stores.
In 1959 he was promoted to regional manager, in charge of all food operations for Lucky Stores, implementing the concept of "every day low prices." In 1960 he became an e.v.p. and in 1967 was elected president of Lucky Stores. He was instrumental in building the Lucky Stores empire, acquiring Yellow Front Sirloin Stockade, Hancock Fabrics, Kragen Auto Supply, and the Gemco/Memco membership department stores.
Dyer's success in growing Luckys earned him the title of chairman & c.e.o. in 1971, which he held until retiring from those duties in 1974, and remained as a director until 1987, when he retired with 50 years of service.
The Gemco/Memco membership chain was eventually sold after Dyer retired, and today is known as the popular Target chain of retail stores.
Dyer is survived by his two sons, William H. Dyer III, and John D. "Jack" Dyer, six grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Dyer's name to the Masonic Homes of California, 34400 Mission Blvd., Union City, CA 94587 or the John Muir Health Foundation, 1400 Treat Blvd., Walnut Creek, CA 94597.
A memorial service is planned for Jan. 5 at 2 p.m. at the San Ramon Valley Methodist Church located at 902 Danville Blvd., in Alamo Calif.