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Maurice Levy, Korean War vet, Jenss vice president, practical joker

June 28, 1928 – Nov. 22, 2015

As a hands-on business executive, Maurice A. Levy spent 30 years as a vice president of Jenss Department Store, helping the company grow and survive in the last three decades before the turn of the century.

But to friends and relatives, he was better known as a man with a sharp, often-dry sense of humor, always delivered with the straightest of faces and often fooling people with the help of his identical twin brother, Edwin.

Once, in the 1970s, Edwin Levy introduced himself to Jenss’ new in-store security chief. A couple hours later, Maurice, knowing that his brother already had met the man, went up to the new employee and introduced himself as Mr. Levy.

“I think I just met you two hours ago,” the bewildered security chief said.

“What are you talking about?” Maurice Levy replied, with his trademark straight face, before carrying the gag on a while longer.

Maurice Levy died Sunday night in his Canterbury Woods home in East Amherst. He was 87.

A Baltimore native, Mr. Levy earned bachelor’s and master’s of business degrees from the University of Maryland before serving in the Korean War. After starting his retail career with the May Co. in Baltimore, he worked in New York, San Francisco and Minneapolis, before moving to Buffalo in 1970 to join his brother as vice presidents of Jenss.

Their roles were different. Maurice ran the men’s and hard-goods departments, while his brother handled ladies’ fashions and accessories.

“He believed in management by walking around and being visible,” Jeffrey Levy said of his father, Maurice. “And he used to say that at his size, he was very visible.”

Mr. Levy paid great attention to the smallest of details, being able to spot a light that was out, from several aisles away.

Both brothers retired in 2000, when Jenss closed its department store in the Boulevard Mall. Edwin Levy died in 2010.

“They were largely responsible for the growth of the business in the 1970s and ‘80s,” said Larry Dautch, current president of the Jenss Division of Reeds Jenss.

Still, many remembered Maurice Levy for the tricks he and his brother played on others.

“In a humorous way, they played on their twinship,” Dautch said. “It was always in good fun.”

Maurice Levy’s wife of 32 years, the former Judith K. Halper, died in 1993.

Survivors include two sons, Jeffrey N. and John “Jack” A.; one daughter, Ann L. Minnium; and eight grandchildren.

A graveside service will be private.