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Walter Baum, 86, Norwalk Business Owner

NORWALK, Conn. — Walter Baum, 86, of Norwalk, died April 16 in Norwalk Hospital, due to complications from a broken hip.

Born Aug. 4, 1925, in Nonnenweier, Germany, he was the son of the late Morris and Alice (Moch) Baum. After escaping Nazi Germany with his parents in the late 1930s, Baum settled in Norwalk as a refugee. He attended local schools before entering the U.S. Army as World War II was under way. Due to his command of the German language and intellect, he was chosen to serve in the Office of Strategic Services.

Following the war, Baum founded a sportswear distribution company, Stafford Higgins Industries Inc., in Norwalk on April 1, 1946. A prominent local employer for many years, Baum started with very little, and even less working capital. Eventually, he forged a business that became one of the largest national distributors of women’s sportswear.

Later in his career, among his other activities, Baum took on the business of banking and financial services. He became a key board member of a large Connecticut bank. He also served on the University of Bridgeport Board of Trustees until his death.

Baum is survived by his wife of 62 years, Merle Miller Baum; two sons, Winthrop (Stefanie) Baum of Fairfield and Mark (Carol Lion) Baum of New York City; and a granddaughter.

Services will take place at 11 a.m. Friday at Congregation Beth El in Norwalk, with Rabbi Joseph Ron Fish officiating. Burial with full military honors will follow in Beth Israel Cemetery in Norwalk. Collins Funeral Home in Norwalk is handling arrangements.

A celebration of Baum’s life will be held at the home immediately after burial. Shiva, a period of mourning, will be observed at the Baum residence, 4-12 Singing Woods Road in Norwalk, through Wednesday, starting at 7 each evening.

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