- November 9, 1931 - March 23, 2015
- Rancho Mirage, California
of James' Passing
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Memories & CandlesPrevious
“What a guy Jim was. Am I surprised that he wound up being the top man at a world famous New York Stock Exchange listed company? No way. He was a man...Read More »
1 of 5 | Posted by: Bob Larsom - Minneapolisy, MN
“Thinking of you all, and so sad for your loss.
2 of 5 | Posted by: Sandra Rigsby Alford - FL - Aunt
“To Weezie and the family of Jim McVey; our thoughts and prayers are with you. Jim was a great mentor to many at Oscar Mayer. He had the ability to...Read More »
3 of 5 | Posted by: Bob Schnakenberg - Alpharetta, GA
“Jim McVey was one of the finest people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. May God bless you Jim and my sincere condolences to Weezy & the...Read More »
4 of 5 | Posted by: Bruce McCauley - Livermore, CA
“Jim had a Hugh influence on my career and was an inspirational, professional role model. I am a better person professionally and personally having...Read More »
5 of 5 | Posted by: Brian Fleming - Penhook, VA
Jim McVey embodied a work ethic and commitment to Oscar Mayer Foods Corp. that made him a natural to become the company's chief executive and chairman. Mr. McVey's entire career—35 years—was devoted to Oscar Mayer which gave the nation its two most famous corporate jingles and a fleet of Wienermobiles driven by Hotdoggers while capturing the market for sliced luncheon meats, hot dogs and bacon.
James William McVey, 83, died March 23 of Parkinson's disease at his Rancho Mirage, CA residence. The memorial service is at 11 a.m. Tuesday, April 7, at St. Margaret's Episcopal Church in Palm Desert, CA.
Mr. McVey was named Oscar Mayer's chief executive in 1985 and chairman in 1991 before retiring in January 1992. Besides a range of civic leadership, Mr. McVey became chairman of the American Meat Institute in 1991. One civic commitment dear to his heart was heading the organization to coordinate events celebrating the re-commissioned battleship USS Wisconsin.
Mr. McVey rose at 5 a.m. daily, a habit developed when he served in the U.S. Navy, and was in the office by 6:30 a.m. Through his experience in sales and marketing, he was astute in consumer trends and noted the movement towards leaner luncheon meats. Mr. McVey recommended that Oscar Mayer buy the Louis Rich Co. to add turkey to its product line. He oversaw the development of the popular Lunchables. One failure he talked about was Oscar Mayer's Stuffin' Burger, frozen stuffed beef patties. They tasted great right off the production line but did not hold up when frozen.
Only Oscar Mayer luncheon meats were allowed in the McVey home. On weekends, Mr. McVey cooked up pounds of pork sausage and bacon for the family's pancake breakfasts. He didn't test new products on his family but would try them out on his children's friends to elicit an unbiased opinion. When one of his children went to a sleepover, Mr. McVey would ask the parents if they had Oscar Mayer products in the house for the children, said his daughter Jane Bosch of Phoenix, AZ. He was an animated talker who commanded a room and peppered his sentences with "what the hell" as if it were an adjective, a trait carried on by two more generations.
Under Mr. McVey's leadership, Oscar Mayer grew to annual sales of more than $2.3 billion, 20 plants, and more than 12,000 employees. Among those employees were his four children who were required to work summers at Oscar Mayer. He imparted his work ethic and ensured that his children learn that nothing is handed to them in life. That did not preclude Mr. McVey sharing his other passions—boating and golf—with them. He always talked about buying a boat but never would. So, his wife, Eleanor "Weezie" McVey, just used her credit card to buy him a 28-foot twin-engine cabin cruiser. Driving the boat on Lake Mendota in Madison, WI, home of Oscar Mayer's corporate headquarters, evoked memories of his Navy days and put him in control. No one dared asked him to let them drive. Tubing in the boat's huge wake, his children competed to see who could hang on the longest. Mr. McVey always wanted a Porsche, too, and wouldn't buy one. His wife again used her credit card to buy him a red Porsche for Father's Day.
The only time Mr. McVey left work early was in good weather when he could play golf on three holes closest to his home in Maple Bluff Village, a relaxation he sometimes shared with his son, Mark McVey of Dallas, TX. Mrs. McVey knew her husband was home when she heard music. As soon as he walked in the door, the music lover put on the soundtrack "Victory at Sea" or the music from a favorite Broadway show. His record collection included "Music to Eat Oscar Mayer Wieners By" www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpUDgPP_DtY. It features six musical treatments of the corporate jingle ranging from the Vienna Symphony to Motown. "Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener…" debuted in 1963 and is one of the longest-running and most popular jingles in advertising. It was followed in 1974 by the wildly popular jingle "My bologna has a first name, it's O-s-c-a-r…". Mr. McVey said, "Very rarely do you hit that kind of home run once in a business life. We were able to do it twice."
"My Dad was an Oscar Mayer wiener all the way through," said his daughter Lynne Sanders of Dallas, TX.
Survivors include his wife of 62 years, Eleanor Lauder "Weezie" McVey of Rancho Mirage, CA.; three daughters, Margaret Lynne McVey Sanders and husband Stephen of Dallas, Catherine Anne "Cathy" McVey of Rancho Mirage, and Jane McVey Bosch and husband Wayne of Phoenix; a son, Mark Lauder McVey and wife Samantha of Dallas; a brother, Robert Donald McVey and wife Jo of Monmouth, IL; six grandchildren, William McVey Sanders of Munich, Germany, Elizabeth Wright Sanders of Birmingham, AL, Haley Louise Bosch and Jack Henry Bosch of Phoenix, and Emerson Grace McVey and Avery Lauder McVey of Dallas. He was the son of the late Richard Wright McVey and Margaret Foster McVey and brother of the late Richard Foster McVey, all of Monmouth.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial contributions be made to Donation Processing, The Michael J. Fox Foundation, P.O. Box 5014, Hagerstown, MD 21741-5041; by phone at 800-708-7644; or online at www.michaeljfox.org/.
Forest Lawn was in charge of arrangements.