Jacques H. Adler, Hawai'i diamond merchant, dead at 85
By Walter Wright
Advertiser Staff Writer
He spent his childhood days in an Antwerp, Belgium, house that literally shook with the grinding of 90 diamond cutting wheels.
Jacques Adler was said to be one of Honolulu's last "personality" businessmen.
"If you are not buying your diamonds from the House of Adler, you ARE paying too much."
Sir Jacques H. Adler, knighted by King Leopold II of Belgium for post-war relief efforts, holder of the Order of Couronne and diamond merchant par excellence, died Tuesday in Denver, where he had resided during the past two years. He was 85.
Born to one of Belgium's premier diamond exporters, Adler worked hard in the family's diamond and film businesses there but had room for playboy pastimes until the outbreak of World War II strained the family fortunes and sent him fleeing with a borrowed passport on a cruise ship to the United States.
Memorial remembrances may be sent to the Hospice of Metro Denver, 425 South Cherry St., Suite 700, Denver, Colo., 80246. Funeral arrangements are pending.
"He was charming, probably the most perfect gentleman you could meet," said long-time Honolulu friend Carole Brooks. "Even on his last trip to Hawai'i, last summer, he would wear an ascot around his neck and always a hanky in the breast pocket of his suit jacket when he went down to the Outrigger Club, totally dressed to the nines."
Attorney Jeff Portnoy, who represented Adler when a deal to sell his stores here soured in the midst of the 1990s Hawai'i recession, said Adler, along with Lex Brodie, was one of the last unique "personality" businessmen in a retail world rapidly fading to one vanilla flavor.
"If you mentioned diamonds, you thought of him; if you mentioned him, you thought of diamonds," Portnoy said. "He WAS his business."
The Aga Khan, buying baubles for his lady friends, was a favored client, and George Raft, Peter Lawford, Tony Martin, Gary Cooper, Jack Benny and Clark Gable were among his customers and friends.
Although known best in Hawai'i beginning in the 1970s for his retail operations and his famous slogan, Adler's greatest business triumphs were in the PXs of military bases across the western United States during World War II, and in Vietnam during the war there, as well as in Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Guam, Thailand, Hong Kong, Casablanca and in foreign company compounds in Saudi Arabia.
Adler is survived by his wife, Suzanne; daughters Jacqueline Anthony and Maury Leacox of Colorado; stepchildren Mack and Janice and Jan Tatarsky of California; four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.