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Blake Nordstrom, who spent his entire career working for his family’s department store chain, died unexpectedly Wednesday morning in his native Seattle. The longtime retail executive had been diagnosed with lymphoma in December but was expected to survive.
Seattle—Blake Nordstrom, one of three brothers who ran the business his great-grandfather started in 1901, died Wednesday in Seattle.

He was 58.

According to numerous news reports, Blake Nordstrom had been diagnosed with lymphoma, a cancer that attacks the immune system, in early December. The company informed employees of his diagnosis in a letter but said he would be undergoing chemotherapy and that the cancer was treatable.

Nordstrom Inc. said in a formal statement issued Tuesday that Blake’s death was unexpected. The exact cause of death was unclear as of Thursday.

“My heart goes out to the Nordstrom family and everyone at the company during this difficult time. Everyone who worked with Blake knew of his passion and deep commitment to employees, customers and the communities we serve,” board Chairman Brad Smith said. “We are fortunate to have continued leadership from co-presidents Pete and Erik Nordstrom.”

Swedish immigrant John W. Nordstrom opened his first store—a shoe store—in 1901 with partner Carl F. Wallin, a shoemaker. Wallin & Nordstrom was located on Fourth and Pike in Seattle, with a second location opening in 1923 in the city’s University District.

When Nordstrom and Wallin retired, both sold their shares in the store to Nordstrom’s sons.

The business continued to grow and eventually branched out from just selling shoes, adding clothing for men, women and children in the 1960s.

The retailer went public as Nordstrom Inc. in 1971 and, after that, began to expand nationally.

Blake Nordstrom started his career in the family business in 1976, working in the stockroom of the Nordstrom store in downtown Seattle. From there, he worked his way up through the ranks, serving in executive positions for Nordstrom’s off-price branch, Nordstrom Rack, before being appointed an officer at Nordstrom Inc. in 1991.

He became co-president in May 2015, running the business alongside his two brothers.

Ben Bridge Co-Chair Emeritus Jon Bridge knew Nordstrom via the Seattle business community and considered him a personal friend.

Nordstrom served as a mentor and adviser to the jewelry executive when Ben Bridge was plotting its expansion, and Bridge said he will miss their frequent discussions and counsel.

He also noted the “giving spirit” with which Nordstrom and his family infused the city of Seattle.

“His personal commitment to downtown Seattle has made our city a mecca for growth and prosperity,” Bridge said. “He will be sorely missed.”

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