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Charles P. Stevenson, Eastman Machine president ; Sept. 23, 1918 -- Dec. 25, 2010

Charles P. Stevenson, the former president of Eastman Machine Co., died Saturday in his home in Hobe Sound, Fla., after a brief illness. He was 92.

The Buffalo native attended Elmwood Franklin School and Nichols School, then graduated from St. Paul's School in Concord, N.H. In 1941, he earned a bachelor's degree from Yale University. He enrolled in Roosevelt Aviation School on Long Island, then entered the Navy as an ensign in 1942.

Mr. Stevenson was deployed to the Pacific Theater, where he led a naval aircraft repair crew stationed on a succession of South Pacific islands. During the last few months of World War II, he served as a lieutenant in naval intelligence in Washington, D.C., where he was responsible for locating and destroying the balloon bombs that Japan was launching against the Pacific Northwest.

After the war, Mr. Stevenson joined the family business, Eastman Machine Co., working in the New York City office. As the first company to develop an electric cloth-cutting machine, Eastman Machine was instrumental in developing the modern ready-to-wear clothing industry. Through his efforts, Eastman rapidly expanded its sales in the New York Garment District.

After returning to Buffalo, Mr. Stevenson served as company treasurer until 1966, when he became president. In 1983, he oversaw the company's expansion by relocating in Buffalo a subsidiary from Long Island and by expanding the Buffalo factory by more than 40 percent.

During his tenure at Eastman, Mr. Stevenson further expanded the company, establishing representatives in almost every country around the world. Eastman is now the world's largest manufacturer of fabric-cutting machinery.

After he retired in 1988, his sons acquired the business. Today, it is headed by Robert and Wade, the fourth generation of Stevensons to own the firm. Still located at 779 Washington St. in Buffalo, it remains the city's oldest manufacturing business in continuous operation.

Mr. Stevenson also served on the board of directors of Woods Knife Co., Forest Lawn, Houdaille Corp. and M&T Bank.

Aside from his business interests, Mr. Stevenson was active in the Buffalo Club, the Country Club of Buffalo, the Buffalo Tennis and Squash Club, and the Saturn Club, where he served as dean in 1973.

He joined the boards of civic and community agencies, including the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission, Planned Parenthood of Buffalo and Erie County, the SPCA, the United Way and many other charities. He was chairman of the board of Elmwood Franklin School and served as a trustee of St. Andrew's Dune Church in Southampton and as a vestry member of Christ Memorial Chapel on Jupiter Island, Fla.

Mr. Stevenson's loved to golf. During his career, he won several club championships and numerous invitational tournaments. He was a member of some of the most prestigious golf clubs in the U.S., including the Augusta National Golf Club, Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, the National Golf Links, Piping Rock Club and Seminole Golf Club, as well as St. Andrew's Golf Links in Scotland.

Dedicated to helping youngsters enjoy the game, he became an official with the Buffalo District Golf Association and later was named to the executive committee of the United States Golf Association, for which he headed the Junior Championship Committee from 1964 to 1969. As a player, he was known for his fair play, competitiveness and comprehensive knowledge of the rules of golf.

His wife of 48 years, Mary Louise "Sissy" Lord Stevenson, died in 1991. Three years later, he married Barbara Rogers. They have resided on Jupiter Island for the past 16 years.

In addition to his wife, survivors include four sons, Wade, Charles, Robert and Roy, and a daughter, Louise Zimmerman.

A private memorial service is planned.


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