Farewell, Chief: Remembering the legacy of Richard Marcus Sr.

Published 8:22 am Saturday, April 13, 2024

Richard Marcus Sr., respected and beloved community member and businessman, passed away March 17 at the age of 95.

The grandson of immigrants, Richard took over the business started by his grandfather, who came to Vicksburg as a peddler. That business eventually became Marcus Furniture — a true success story of an immigrant family that came to America to make
a better life.

In addition to his role as a businessman, Richard was also known for his generosity, story-telling ability and love of the game of
golf. Legend has it that one day, having been delayed from meeting friends for his regular golf game, one of the men quipped, “We can’t start the game without the chief!” And from that day, friends and family alike referred to Richard as “Chief.”

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Born on Feb. 20, 1929, Richard lived in Vicksburg until he left for college at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va. Upon graduation, he married Leslie Weill, of Baton Rouge. Leslie and Richard met during a youth function at the Anshe Chesed Jewish temple when Leslie was visiting a friend in Vicksburg.

“He used to joke that his mother paid him to go out with me,” Leslie said with a laugh. But, after 72 years of marriage, it would seem there was much more to the attraction than that.

Leslie and Richard were married on Oct. 31, 1951.

“(I was) still wondering if it was a trick or a treat,” Leslie joked.

The couple moved to Rhode Island, where Richard completed Officer Candidate School in the Navy. Their first child, Susan, was born when the couple resided in New York. After that, the couple returned to Vicksburg, where Richard joined the family furniture business. They would later add a daughter, Kim, and son, Richard Jr., to the family.

Richard was one of the first people in Vicksburg to own a computer, and taught himself the early programming languages. He was instrumental in founding MIDD-West, which operates a variety of employment and life training programs for the developmentally disabled of Warren County. He, along with other businessmen, started the Bank of Vicksburg, which was
later sold to BancorpSouth, now Cadence Bank. He was a mentor to many recovering from alcohol and drug addiction. He also started Marcus Realty and a construction company.

Richard’s role as president of the Anshe Chesed Temple was notable, and he generally served at the Temple in a leadership role. He took over management of the Anshe Chesed Cemetery, managing it for over 40 years. He created the first computerized records of the cemetery, documenting every grave and creating records that will stand the test of time.

Longtime friend Stan Kline says Richard had a heart of gold.

“The congregation and his community were blessed by his dedication, his loyalty and his leadership,” Kline said. “He helped people when they didn’t even know he was helping.”

“He was really handsome. The stories he told were something else. He had wit and wisdom,” wife Leslie said, “and he was smart. I went to him constantly to find out what was what. He seemed to know everything.

“The most wonderful thing about Richard was the way he loved his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren,” Leslie continued.

Richard looked forward to 5 p.m. every day, the time when he would Face Time with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. All three of Richard’s children eagerly agree that he was a great dad. His grandson, Paul Dampf, followed Richard’s legacy and also graduated from Washington and Lee University at the encouragement of his grandfather.

For Steven Marcus, who lost his own father at the age of 18, Richard stepped into the role of father for him.

“No question about it, he was a father figure to me,” Steven said.

Richard schooled Steven in everything about the furniture business, and continued to work alongside him at the store until age 70.

Golf was Richard’s passion. Friends and family agree that golf was his favorite hobby, an obsession that caused him to never miss his bi-weekly games with a group of close friends. He also loved to regale anyone who would listen with stories of his time in the Navy.

Son-in-law Martin Pace said Richard helped countless people.

“He would help people anonymously, financial and otherwise. He would always ask that the recipient never know where it came from. He had a big heart,” Pace said.

Whether he was known as “Chief,” “Dad,” “Husband,” or “Richard,” the legacy he leaves will linger forever.