Ned Tolmach, Della Femina Co-Founder, Dies at 73

Served as Creative Director at Agencies Across U.S.

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NEW YORK ( -- Ned S. Tolmach, a creative who made an enduring mark during the "Mad Men" era, died Sunday at his home in Great Falls, Va., due to complications of lymphoma. He was 73.

Mr. Tolmach began his advertising career in New York in 1959 when he answered an ad for mailroom work at Fuller & Smith & Ross, quickly moving up the ranks in the shop -- and the industry. According to his wife, Norma Pellgren, an intern at Fuller at the time, Mr. Tolmach arrived at his mailroom interview in a three-piece suit and became an associate account executive within a year.

Mr. Tolmach later relocated to Campbell-Ewald in 1963 -- then a boutique agency in Cleveland -- receiving numerous awards and recognition for his work. From there, he returned to Manhattan and one of the era's dominant agencies, Ted Bates.

Remembered for humor
In 1967, Mr. Tolmach left Bates to become, along with Jerry Della Femina, one of the founders of Jerry Della Femina & Partners, which famously began its life in a room at the Gotham Hotel. "When we got the room in 1967, we waited four hours for the phone to ring. And when it didn't, we had a pillow fight," said Mr. Della Femina.

"He had a great sense of humor," Mr. Della Femina added. "I kind of want to remember Ned menacing me with a pillow."

Mr. Tolmach became an agency journeyman of sorts, serving as creative director with several large national agencies coast to coast including Compton, Benton & Bowles, Grey, and Young & Rubicam. "One thing that people didn't realize about Ned," recalled Mr. Della Femina, "was that he was one of the best ad writers working. In the handful of great advertising writers, Ned was at the top."

Built antiques business
In 1983, after retiring from the industry, Mr. Tolmach and his wife began their second career: an antiques-importing venture that took the couple to England, Ireland and France from their new home in northern Virginia. Although their business, Norma Tolmach Antiques, bore her name, Ms. Tolmach credits her husband with the success of the outfit, a small antiques empire that spanned nine Virginian boutiques and a 7,000-square-foot warehouse.

Ms. Tolmach said the couple let go of that business when her husband was diagnosed with AILD lymphoma in 2004.

Born in New York, Mr. Tolmach graduated from Stuyvesant High School and the City College of New York. He is survived by his wife of 48 years, his two daughters and five grandchildren.
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