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Florence Melton, 95; designed the Dearfoam slippers

February 19, 2007|Mary Rourke | Times Staff Writer

Florence Zacks Melton, who fashioned a foam cushion-soled house slipper in the 1940s that became Dearfoams, a leading name in the industry, has died. She was 95.

She died Feb. 8 of congestive heart failure at Hospice by the Sea in Boca Raton, Fla., said her son, Gordon Zacks. In recent years she had divided her time between Florida and her home in Columbus, Ohio.

Melton got the idea for her cushion-soled slippers during a visit to a tire manufacturer, where she noticed a piece of foam rubber. Accustomed to long hours on her feet, she figured the best thing to do with the soft, bouncy material was walk on it, she later said.

"I always thought in terms of filling a need," Melton recalled in a 2001 interview with the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel.

The first version of her slippers was a quilted chintz slip-on that sold under the Angel Treads label. The product launched in 1947 and cost $1.49.

The Dearfoams brand was introduced 11 years later. From the beginning the slippers were available in a range of fabrics and styles, including slip-ons and closed-heel varieties. Current options include frosted pile booties and suede clogs.

A men's line was added in the '50s.

Melton was not new to the retail business when she created her popular slippers. In 1946 she introduced "Shoulda-Shams," detachable shoulder pads that gave women's jackets a military silhouette, a popular look after World War II. To launch the pads, she and her first husband, Aaron Zacks, founded their own company. The shoulder-pad craze didn't last.

In 1948, the Zackses and a third partner, Harry Streim, founded the R.G. Barry Corp. Based in Columbus, it is still referred to informally as the Dearfoams company, said Gordon Zacks, chairman of the board.

Over the years, Melton created other products, including removable, washable car seat covers that the company sold, her son said.

She was born Florence Spurgeon on Nov. 6, 1911, in Philadelphia to Russian Jewish immigrant parents. The family moved to Camden, N.J., when she was young. She quit high school and got a job in a local department store, where she met Aaron Zacks.

They married in 1930 and had two children, Barry and Gordon. The family moved to Ohio in the early 1940s.

Melton's first husband died in the mid-1960s. She then married Samuel Melton, who also died before she did.

Her son Barry died in 1990. Her survivors include her son Gordon and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Melton continued working in the business until 2005.

She was a longtime advocate of Jewish education. In her 70s she launched a program for adult education in Judaism. At 91 she launched a similar program for teens.

"You're never too old. That's the message of her life," Gordon Zacks said last week.

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