Shelby Modell, matriarch of sporting items chain, dies

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Shelby Modell, the matriarch of Modell’s sporting goods retail empire, died last week at the age of 98.

A longtime resident of Hewlett Harbor, Modell was the wife of William Modell, former chairman of the company founded by Morris Modell in 1889.

Raised in Brooklyn, Shelby Modell received her BA from Brooklyn College and her MA from Columbia University. She married her Bill Modell in 1949.

Shelby Modell was a prolific philanthropist and political activist. She was the national co-founder of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America and the founder of its Long Island chapter. Modell’s son Michael suffered from Crohn’s disease and died in 2011 from the long-term effects of the disease.

In addition to raising millions for CCFA, Modell was a charter member of the American Digestive Disease Society and founder of the Jeffrey Modell Foundation for Immunological Research. Modell was the founder of the Gilda Radner Foundation “Gilda’s Club” and served as secretary on its board of trustees. She was also a founder of Hewlett House, a breast cancer resource center.

Modell had served as president of the Metropolitan Geriatric Center’s Long Island League; Chairman of the Five Towns Development Fund for Lincoln Center and founding patron of the Metropolitan Opera.

Active in politics, Modell was appointed to the US-Panama Canal Treaty Negotiating Committee by President Jimmy Carter in 1977. Mario Cuomo appointed her to the New York State Council of the Arts.

The model chain grew to more than 150 stores in 10 states and reported sales of $765 million in 2015. The company filed for bankruptcy protection and closed its operations in 2020.

Shelby Modell is survived by sister Claire Kaufman, children Leslie, Abby and Mitchell, and grandchildren Shawn, Alex and Gila, Missy, Andrew, Ashley and David, Brittany and Jeremy, Ashley, Maxwell, Matthew and nieces Judy Boslow, Mindy Boslow, Lisa Boslow and great-granddaughter Myka.

The family scheduled a private service Tuesday at the Riverside Memorial Chapel in Manhattan. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America Research Fund in memory of Shelby Modell.