By Deanna Kirk
Corsicana Daily Sun
Jay Marvin Wolens, 87, died at home unexpectedly on July 22, 2013 in Grapevine, Texas, after suffering a heart attack. Jay was born in Corsicana, Texas, on Sept. 22, 1925, the oldest child of Max and Florence Wolens.
Jay was an accomplished pianist from a young age, playing classical selections at numerous community events in his hometown beginning when he was 10 years old. His love of music stayed with him always, and his children remember him playing classical music throughout the house when they were growing up; he always owned a piano and played frequently. After graduating from Corsicana High School in 1942, Jay enrolled at Texas A&M University, where he excelled in mathematics, which he taught his senior year at A&M. In June 1944, Jay and 10 others from Navarro County were inducted into the United States Navy; Jay passed the rigorous classification examination commonly called the “Eddy Test,” qualifying him for training as an electronics maintenance technician. His naval expertise was electronics and radar.
Upon graduation from Texas A&M, Jay began working for his family’s Texas retail chain, the K.Wolens Department Stores. The stores, which eventually numbered over 50 in small towns around the state, were founded in 1898 by Jay’s grandfather Kalman Wolens. “Mr. K,” as he was fondly known, had immigrated to Corsicana from Poland, via Chicago, with his wife Ida, three young sons and one daughter; his first venture was selling eyeglasses on the streets of Corsicana. After borrowing money from a local Jewish family, Kalman opened a small clothing store, which all of his sons, including Jay’s father Max, eventually helped expand. The civically prominent Wolens family helped build two of Corsicana’s three synagogues – one in 1917, when there were 200 Jews living in Corsicana, and its replacement in 1957 after the Jewish population had doubled.
Jay joined the family business after his college graduation, became involved in the Corsicana civic and business community, and in 1948 married Maliette Landau, whose family had escaped Europe at the beginning of World War II, eventually settling in Mexico City. Jay and Maliette raised three sons in Corsicana, where Jay worked as a Vice-President of K. Wolens until the stores were sold in 1975 and where he served as President of the Corsicana Lions Club from 1958 to 1960. In 1980, Jay purchased a lucite furniture and gifts manufacturing company, Morgan Plastics, Inc. in Dallas, where the family had moved in 1968 so the boys could attend St. Mark’s School of Texas. Jay sold Morgan Plastics in 2004 and retired to Grapevine.
Jay is survived by his three sons: Steven Wolens and his wife Laura Miller of Dallas; Gary Wolens of London; and Keenan Wolens and his wife Orna of Los Angeles. Jay’s surviving 11 grandchildren include Alex, Lily and Max of Dallas; Frederic, Ariella, Zachary and Jared of London; and Alana, Ethan, Sophia and Raquel of Los Angeles. Jay is also survived by his sister Charlotte Wolens Schuman and his second wife Kathleen Johnson Wolens.