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Home » Campus News Latest » Obituaries » David C. Farrell ’56

David C. Farrell, loving husband, father, and grandfather and former Chairman of the May Department Stores died on June 5, 2023 surrounded by his family. He was 89 years old. Born in Chicago on June 14, 1933, he met his wife Betty at Antioch College, and they married in 1955. He and his family moved to St. Louis in 1975, where he was named president and chief operating officer of May Department Stores.

Under Farrell’s leadership, the May Department Stores changed the face of the retailing, introducing numerous efficiencies, the May Matrix, and became one of the largest and most profitable department stores in the country. May’s senior management earned recognition as the best in the retail industry, and Farrell was widely admired as one of the hardest-working people in retail, who would always go the extra mile to ensure success.

In addition to serving on the board of May Department Stores, Farrell also was a board member for Emerson Electric, Ralston-Purina, Centerre Bank, and Civic Progress.

Farrell became as well known for his many civic and charitable efforts as his accomplishments in retail. He was honored to work with Archbishop Rigali in raising funds for Pope John Paul II’s visit to St. Louis. He also served as the head of United Way’s drive in 1983, the Salvation Army Tree of Lights Campaign in 1980, and was co-chairman of fundraising efforts for a new campus for Cardinal Ritter High School in Grand Center. He was a Lifetime Trustee of the St. Louis Symphony, the St. Louis Art Museum, and the St. Louis Community Foundation. In addition to giving generously to these organizations and other causes, he also privately helped many others.

After retiring from May Department Stores, Farrell devoted much of his time and resources to Washington University. In 2000, Farrell and his wife, Betty, in partnership with the former May Company, established the David C. and Betty Farrell Distinguished Professorship in Medicine. The Farrells also provided the leadership gift to build the state-of-the-art Farrell Learning and Teaching Center on the medical campus, which facilities were and continue to be instrumental in educating numerous doctors who are now providing care to many in St. Louis and other cities. A trustee emeritus of the Washington University’s Board of Trustees, he also served on the Community Advisory Board of the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center and established the Farrell Family Medical Research Fund to support research into Alzheimer’s Disease.

He loved traveling and dancing with his wife Betty, and he was particularly fond of the vacation times he spent with his children and his grandchildren. He also loved to share his passion for movies, art, boxing, and the Pittsburgh Steelers with them. He took a keen interest in his children’s and grandchildren’s school work and education, and on many weekends, he could be seen throwing the football with his kids and grandkids, or he and Betty would make home-made pizza for the family.

He taught his children the value of hard work, the pursuit of excellence, humbleness, and the importance of family. Most importantly, when Betty was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, he devotedly cared for her every day until she passed away and taught his children that love doesn’t quit when things get tough. He was a great husband, father, and grandfather.

He was thankful for his colleagues at the May Department Stores; his friends at the Syndicate, St. Louis Country Club, and the Bogey Club; Shannon Venezia and Bisera Bander for their care and dedication; all the people that helped him and his family over the years; and, all the friends he made in St. Louis.

He was also especially grateful to the doctors at Washington University and BJC, who treated him with great skill, kindness and care throughout his life and in his final days.

Farrell was preceded in death by his wife, Betty and his brother Dan. He is survived by his children Mark Farrell (Mary) of Dallas, Lisa Heller (John) of St. Louis, and David Farrell (Helene Urvoaz Farrell) of St. Louis, and four grandsons Theodore Farrell of New York City, William Farrell of Los Angeles, Christopher Heller of St. Louis, and George Farrell-Urvoaz of St. Louis, and his sister Anne Boho of Illinois.