W. Howard Lester, who transformed San Francisco's Williams-Sonoma Inc. from a small kitchenware company into an international retailer, was remembered by friends and admirers at St. Ignatius Church on Sunday as someone who cared about people and good causes as much as he did about success in business.
...Lester, who died last Monday at age 75 after a 13-year bout with cancer, hailed from humble beginnings in rural Oklahoma. He started several companies and retired in his early 40s before purchasing Williams-Sonoma with a partner in 1978. He held the position of company chairman until May 2010.
During his tenure, Lester continually expanded the company - from $4 million in annual sales to $3.4 billion today - and backed charitable and educational organizations. Along with St. Jude, they included the University of California, the Delancey Street Foundation and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Mimi Silbert, who founded San Francisco-based Delancey Street, the country's leading residential self-help organization, said Lester strongly believed in empowering the people and organizations he worked with.