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From Home Furnishing Business

Industry Icon Fred Starr Dies at 87

Furniture industry icon Frederick Brown Starr, former president and CEO of Thomasville Furniture Industries and Natuzzi Americas, died on April 1 at Moses Cone Hospital from complications from the coronavirus.

Starr was born December 11, 1932, in Springfield, Mass. He attended St. Andrew’s School, Middletown, Del. and graduated from Trinity College, Hartford, Conn. in 1955 with a BA in English. Upon graduation, he served in the army for two years.

Starr joined Armstrong World Industries in 1957 in a sales assignment followed by several management positions. In 1974, he joined Thomasville Furniture Industries, a subsidiary of Armstrong, and in 1982, became president and CEO. During his 16 year tenure, the company’s annual sales tripled to well over a half billion dollars with commensurate profits. 

After leaving TFI in 1998, Starr spearheaded the unsuccessful campaign to bring a major league baseball team to the Triad and served as president of the Piedmont Triad Partnership. In 2001, he came out of retirement to become president and CEO of Natuzzi Americas, headquartered in High Point, N.C. He left there in 2008 and most recently, has served as chairman and CEO of Thompson Traders, a specialty kitchen and bath manufacturer.  

"I like the mental challenges of business," Starr said in a 2001 interview with the News & Record. "And I love the furniture industry."

Starr supported his community in a number of ways, notably vice chairman of University of North Carolina, Greensboro; chairman of the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival; board member and honorary chairman of the PGA Wyndham Championship; treasurer of Reynolda House Museum of American History; board member of High Point University; and board president of the Eastern Music Festival.

Starr will be remembered as a wonderful husband, father, and leader who touched many people's hearts. He had a great sense of humor and though his loved ones’ hearts are filled with so much sadness, their memories are full of laughter and fun. Recently, an industry leader recalled seeing him on a plane 10 years ago, “he wouldn't know me from the next guy in line but he came right up and called me by name, shook my hand, and we chatted. It's always stuck with me, so sharp and full of great ideas, he will be sorely missed.”

Starr is survived by his wife of 62 years, Sue Zook Starr, three children: Jonathan Starr and Kate Schoff of Annapolis, Md., Curtis Starr and wife, Amy, of Fairfax, Va., and Anne Denny and husband Glenn, of Greensboro; seven grandchildren: Will, Hannah, Sam, Calla, Natalie, Alex, and Christopher; and several nieces and nephews. A private service for the family will be held followed by a memorial service at a date to be announced to celebrate Fred Starr's life with his many friends and family. Memorial donations can be given to the Eastern Music Festival, PO Box 22026, Greensboro, N.C. 27420.

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Mark Weinberger    10 months ago

So sorry to hear this.Fred was an incredible person.I always cherished the many conversations that we had.Not only did he remember your name but also your everyone in my family.

Lynn Courtade    10 months ago

I had the honor to work with Fred on DesignCliq. His mind and his ability to see clearly always impressed me. Always the gentleman. This is a loss for our industry. Prayers and thoughts go out to his family and all who knew him in this sad time.
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