Sol Saltzman and his relatives clothed generations of workingmen in Chicago.
For decades, they worked in the Maxwell Street district, selling mainly blue jeans and work clothing.
After Mr. Saltzman retired in the 1990s, he took a new job: “He retired to be my substitute baby-sitter” said his wife, Sara Fay Saltzman, a retired Chicago Public Schools kindergarten teacher. The couple often watched their four grandsons — Josh, Noah, Jake and Zack.
A West Side native who lived in Skokie the past 37 years, Mr. Saltzman died Sunday at Evanston Hospital. He was 74. He had undergone successful cardiac bypass surgery in August but later developed a serious infection, said his son, Paul Saltzman, a Chicago Sun-Times editor.
The son of Polish-Jewish immigrants, Mr. Saltzman graduated from Marshall High School on the West Side and took classes at Herzl Junior College and Roosevelt University. During the Korean War, he served in the Army, spending two years in Alaska.
As a child, he worked at an uncle’s store on Maxwell Street. As an adult, he worked at the old Karoll’s men’s clothing store downtown, sold insurance for United Insurance and John Hancock Insurance and in the mid-1970s opened a store on Maxwell Street with his brother Abbe Saltzman and father Max Saltzman.
It was called Mother’s Threads — the name left over from the previous owners. “It was cheaper to keep the sign,” Sara Fay Saltzman said, than change the name.
Mr. Saltzman knew his wife from childhood, but the two didn’t start going out until they were young adults. They got married at the old Edgewater Beach hotel and had three children, one of whom, Ruthie, died from a brain tumor when she was 17.
He could be gruff but loved to do things for other people, especially his family. He loved to shop and run errands for others. And when visiting family, Mr. Saltzman “showed his love through bread,” said his wife. “He never went anywhere without bringing bread.”
Hours before he died, despite being on a ventilator and heavily medicated, Mr. Saltzman briefly regained consciousness as his wife, son and daughter Eileen Zeidman stood at his bedside. His wife squeezed his hand. She told him there was nothing more that could be done. Then, she said, “Sol, I love you.”
Somehow, he was able to mouth a final message in return: “Love you, too.”
Mr. Saltzman also is survived by son-in-law Irwin Zeidman and daughter-in-law Carolyn Yousse.
A funeral will be held at 1:30 p.m. today at Weinstein Family Services, 111 Skokie Blvd. in Wilmette. Burial will follow at Westlawn Cemetery in Chicago.