Joseph R. Liss, 95, who has been in the baking industry for more than 70 years, died Dec. 15 at his home in Bala Cynwyd.
Born in South Philadelphia, Liss grew up in Strawberry Mansion, and attended Simon Gratz High School and Temple University. He came from a well-known Philadelphia baking family that operated a chain of Liss Bakeries throughout the city.
His career spanned the industry — from horse-drawn deliveries to modern scientific techniques. He went into the bakery virtually every day of his life until right before his death.
The youngest of eight children, Liss' father was a flour broker, and his four brothers owned retail bakeries in Philadelphia and New Jersey under the Liss Bakery name. As a teenager, he worked for his brothers making deliveries and doing their accounting work.
Shortly after graduating from Temple, Liss opened Michel's Bakery in Strawberry Mansion. He later moved the facility to East Falls, where, in the early years, the bakery made the front page of the Philadelphia Inquirer when a freight-train box car fell off the tracks above and plunged into the store. The headlines read "Box Car Drops in for Breakfast."
At Michel's, Liss met his wife-to-be, Betty, who managed the office. Together, they worked side by side for more than 60 years.
They entered the wholesale business, purchasing the Wassell Pie Company from Mrs. Smith's Pies, where they made cakes and pastries for food-service-route distributors on the East Coast.
Next they purchased Rhea's Bakery in Pittsburgh, expanding that operation to seven retail stores and 25-plus supermarket in-store bakeries before selling to a family investor. Then they bought New Standard Baking Company, a manufacturer of private-label supermarket cakes.
In 1983, they picked up the fresh-route distribution operations and production plants of Mrs. Smith's Pie Company.
Liss also partnered with Ludwig Goldschmidt in the LuJoe Company to buy and sell used bakery equipment. In 1988, he consolidated his bakery operations into a new facility in Philadelphia.
Today, Michel's Bakery is a major private-label bakery supplying supermarkets and food-service accounts with cakes, pastries, pies, muffins and brownies.
Throughout their careers, the couple helped others in the industry and donated to charitable causes.
In honor of Liss' 95th birthday, Bundy Baking Solutions gave a generous donation to the Baker's National Education Fund. This fund has been supplying scholarships and education to the baking industry for 50 years.
Liss is survived by two daughters, Kathy Liss Drew and Tobie Bardsley; son Jon Liss; five grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his wife, the former Betty Cohen.
Memorial contributions can be made to: Alyn Hospital Jerusalem, c/o American Friends of Alyn Hospital, 51 E. 42nd St., Suite 308, New York, N.Y. 10017.