Elyria — Margaret Ware Kahliff, an innovative businesswoman who ignored traditional barriers in commerce and manufacturing and served as an outspoken director of the Export-Import Bank under three presidents, died Thursday at Fairview Hospital.
She was a founder of Servomation Inc., which became one of the nation’s largest institutional foods companies. She also operated Majestic Molding Co. of Elyria.
Kahliff, 88, was born in Oak Grove, Ark., and attended the College of the Ozarks. One of her brothers was former Arkansas Sen. Dale Bumpers.
She moved to Elyria in 1947 with her first husband, Earl E. Ware, to launch the first Dr Pepper franchise north of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Three years later, she started Ware Vending Co. with $300 and one soft drink machine. She worked with a Chicago inventor who crafted a way to brew vacuum-packed coffee in small amounts inside the machines. Kahliff called the result “the freshest cup of coffee that can be made.”
In 1959, she married William T. Kahliff. The next year she joined with seven other regional vending companies to form Servomation. In three years the company was listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Kahliff moved operations from Elyria to a new plant in Brook Park. When her husband died in 1970, she also took over his Majestic Molding Co. in Elyria. She resigned from Servomation two years later.
In 1976, President Ford appointed her to the Export-Import Bank, an independent federal agency set up to promote American exports by making low-interest loans to federal buyers. She chaired the bipartisan board for five months and testified before Congress.
She was reappointed by Presidents Carter and Reagan, but resigned in 1982. She told a reporter at the time that she did not think the Reagan administration was doing enough for world trade.
According to the Washington Post, Kahliff said, “My boss, William H. Draper III, said, ‘There are a lot of good Republicans looking for your seat.’ I said, ‘What is a good Republican?’ and he said, ‘One who didn’t serve under Carter,’ and from that day forward I wanted to get out.”
Kahliff called herself the first woman member of the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce and was the first woman in the Cleveland Sales and Marketing Executives Club. She was a founding member of the Council of Smaller Enterprises.
She served on the board of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, was a trustee of the College of the Ozarks and was named First Lady of Elyria in 1968.
Kahliff, a fan of Ohio State University football, endowed a chair in the university’s School of Forestry in her second husband’s name.
In recent years, she lived in Rocky River.
She is survived by sons, William B. Ware of Elyria and David E. Ware of Chicago; daughter, Linda W. Smith of Rocky River; 10 grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.
Services will be at 10:30 a.m. Monday at First Congregational United Church of Christ, 330 Second St., Elyria.
Dicken Funeral Home in Elyria is handling arrangements.Source: Plain Dealer, The (Cleveland, OH) – Sunday, October 3, 2004