DETROIT (AP) — Florine Mark, a Michigan business icon and former owner of Weight Watchers franchises in Michigan and Ontario, Canada, has died. She was 90.
Mark died Friday morning, said Kelly Woerner, a staff member with Ira Kaufman Chapel in the Detroit suburb of Southfield. She said additional details were not immediately available and that Mark’s relatives were meeting with chapel representatives.
Mark, who was born in Detroit, established the Michigan Weight Watchers franchise in 1966, having been inspired by the 50-pound weight loss she experienced after seeking help at a Weight Watchers chapter in New York. She eventually expanded to more than a dozen other states and also opened franchises in Canada and Mexico, according to the Detroit Historical Society.
“Florine was a fearless trailblazer and devoted friend,” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Friday in a statement. “An incredibly savvy and successful businesswoman, she was just as committed to giving back, working with the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, Detroit Institution for Children, Women of Tomorrow and other organizations.”
“She was an icon and a leader who could encourage, empower, motivate, and inspire individuals to achieve their goals and be their best selves,” Whitmer continued. “I am grateful to have known Florine, and I know her memory will serve as an example for Michiganders to follow. My love goes to Florine’s family.”
U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow called Mark “a leader in so many amazing ways — in business, in Detroit, in the Jewish community, as a role model for women and as the matriarch of a close and loving family.”
In 2003, Weight Watchers International acquired all but the Michigan and Ontario, Canada, franchises. Mark later sold The WW Group franchise, of which she was president and CEO, and one in Ontario, Canada, to Weight Watchers International.
Mark had served on the Women’s Leadership Board at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and was chair for the Detroit Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, according to the Detroit Historical Society.
In the Detroit area, Mark’s “Ask Florine” and “Remarkable Women” broadcast television and radio segments were popular.
“I’m terribly scared,” Mark told the station. “I’m frightened for the Israeli people, I’m frightened for my children and my grandchildren, I’m frightened for the Palestinians. I don’t want war — I want peace.”