Longtime Industry Icon Bob MacLea Passes at Age 75

Bob MacLea

Bob MacLea, one of the retail industry’s longest-tenured and most-respected loss prevention executives, lost his battle with cancer last Thursday, March 1. Beginning his career as a security officer in 1975 with Marshalls Department Stores, MacLea steadily rose through the TJX corporation, ultimately retiring as senior vice president of loss prevention in October 2016 after 41 years. Asked why he worked as long as he did, MacLea reportedly said, “I’ve always been told that when you retire, you should do something you love. I love my job and can’t think of anything I’d rather do. So why should I even think about leaving?”

News of MacLea’s passing prompted a chorus of emails, text messages, and phone calls between the many men and women touched by MacLea, who was known as much for his compassion for people as his competency as a retail security practitioner. One of his direct reports at TJX explained that he coined the phrase “relationships before tasks” to describe his philosophy for building the loss prevention mindset inside both the LP organization as well as throughout the TJX culture.

His focus on people was recognized in LP Magazine‘s first Magpie excellence awards in the January-February 2017 print edition when he was the first “Excellence in Community Service” recipient. The article noted, “He has always believed you must be involved with both your community and your profession, and he has lived up to that belief. Over the years MacLea has also given of himself to philanthropy, supporting many charitable initiatives such as the Youth Business Institute, Minority Suppliers, the NAACP, Lazarus House, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Making Strides Against Breast Cancer.”

MacLea was also an active proponent of advancing the loss prevention profession as he served in various organizations across the industry, including the board of directors as well as member of the executive committee and audit committee for the Loss Prevention Foundation; member of the loss prevention advisory council for the National Retail Federation; on the editorial board of LP Magazine; and as one of the founding members of the Loss Prevention Research Council.

Many individuals throughout the loss prevention profession have expressed their heartbreak at MacLea’s passing. Perhaps his close friend and former colleague Jim Lee, LPC, executive editor of LP Magazine, summed up the feelings best when he wrote: “Bob felt very fortunate in what he had achieved in business and family and wanted to share and give back. I feel very fortunate that I knew this exceptional man. He enriched my life and was an example to follow for everyone he touched. Much has been chronicled about his accomplishments in work and family. I am so happy I did not miss the chance to tell him how much I loved him and how much he meant to me and others. Eternal thanks to you, Bob.”

Visitation for MacLea will be on Tuesday, March 6, from 4:00-8:00 p.m. at the Britton-Wallace Funeral Home in Auburn, MA. Funeral services will be held on Wednesday, March 7, at 11:00 a.m. at Saint Thomas Episcopal Church, 35 School Street in Auburn. Memorial donations many be sent to the American Cancer Society, 30 Speen St, Framingham, MA 01701. To leave a note of condolence for MacLea’s family or to view his “Book of Memories” visit, www.brittonfuneralhomes.com.

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