Fred Saba, a founder and president of the former Centre Supermarkets, Inc. who was a leader in his church and in Masonic groups, died yesterday in Flower Hospital from complications of a blood disorder. He was 79.
Mr. Saba was diagnosed with the condition, which inhibited the production of red blood cells, in the early 1990s, his wife, Rosemary, said.
He and brothers George and Raymond started Centre in 1951 at Stickney Avenue and Manhattan Boulevard, continuing and expanding the grocery their father, Michael, began in 1909 as Saba's Market on Cherry Street.
At its peak, the chain had eight supermarkets in the Toledo area, including one in Bowling Green.
“I don't think I'm a success,” Mr. Saba told The Blade in 1984. “I just try to be honest and sincere and I learn something every day.
“We were among the first stores in the area to have a full line of services,” he said then. “We always were good with produce, from working in our father's store, but we learned as we went along. Our stores were among the first to have in-store delis and bakeries.”
Indeed, Centre officials marked the opening of new stores by cutting an extra-long loaf of bread, instead of a ribbon, to promote the store's bakery and as a symbol of friendship.
“He prided himself on our bakeries and our meat departments and produce,” his daughter Rebecca, who worked for Centre, said.
He liked to be a gracious host and invited guests into his home.
“His stores were almost his home,” his daughter said. “And he wanted to make sure [visitors] were well fed and comfortable and had a nice experience. He liked to provide people with a high quality product.”
Centre Supermarkets closed in 1989. Three of the stores were bought by Seaway Food Town, Inc.
Mr. Saba grew up in North Toledo - first on Superior Street; later on Chestnut Street - and was a graduate of Woodward High School. He attended the University of Toledo.
He was treasurer of St. George Orthodox Cathedral for 30 years and had been a member of the parish council.
He was a 33rd Degree Mason and was on the board of governors for Scottish Rite, Toledo. He was a former worshipful master of Yondota Lodge, F&AM, where he was a 57-year member. Among many past offices, he was a former district deputy grand master and a past sovereign prince of the Northern Light Council.
Painting was a favorite pastime - portraits and still lifes in oils or watercolors. The only public display of a Saba painting, his wife said, is his portrait of Henry VIII of England, which is at the Board Room, a restaurant owned by son-in-law Kameel Ansara.
Surviving are his wife, Rosemary, whom he married March 7, 1954; daughters, Rhonda Meifert, Jacqueline Ansara, and Rebecca, Cheryl, Stephanie, Alexa, and Melanie Saba; son, Fred Saba II; brother, Raymond; sisters, Elizabeth Ellis and Alice George, and seven grandchildren.
The body will be in the Foth-Dorfmeyer Mortuary after 6 tonight, with Trisagion prayers in the mortuary at 8 p.m. today and tomorrow. Yondota Lodge F&AM services will be at 7:15 p.m. tomorrow in the mortuary. Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Monday in St. George Orthodox Cathedral.
The family requests tributes to the church, the Red Cross blood donor program, or a charity of the donor's choice.