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Published: Sunday, 3/23/2003

Ex-trucker owned sports merchandise North Towne store

Robert H. Lynch, a former truck driver who as owner of a sports merchandise store became one of the biggest boosters of North Towne Square, died of an apparent heart attack Friday in his shop at the mall. He was 59.

His first heart attack came at 32, his daughter, LuAnn Cole, said. He had quadruple bypass surgery six years ago and a fifth heart attack four month ago. But he continued to run his business, play cards with friends and relatives, and bowl.

“He fought back,” his daughter said. “He didn't sit still. He enjoyed doing the things that he did. He just lived life like nothing was wrong.”

Mr. Lynch, of West Toledo, owned Renl Sports for more than 15 years with his wife and longtime partner, Pat. The business sells merchandise bearing sports teams' logos, NASCAR items, and sports collectibles. The business moved to North Towne more than 11/2 years ago.

“Bob came in when we were down to 12 stores left in the mall, so he knew what it was like to take a chance,” said Lori Rysz, of mall management. “When we acquired more tenants, he talked to them. If someone needed advice, they went to him. He was kind of like the mall's mayor.

“His store was like an anchor store to the mall,” she said. “He did advertising for his business. He brought tons of new business to the mall.”

His daughter was bookkeeper. His wife made sure the store was properly stocked and organized. And Mr. Lynch was salesman and goodwill ambassador.

“He loved being around people,” his daughter said. “He'd always have a joke to tell you. He could talk you into buying anything. He just had a way.”

He favored Cleveland teams, yet “if you asked him, he'd say that he liked whatever team was winning because that's what made him money,” his daughter said. “But his passion was the Browns and the Indians.”

Born in Erie, Pa., Mr. Lynch was a graduate of Sandusky High School and was an Air Force veteran.

He was a truck driver for more than 30 years, most of those making runs from Sandusky to General Mills in Toledo for Findlay Truck Lines. He retired in 1994. He was a member of Teamsters Local 20.

He bowled at least two nights a week in leagues. He bowled his best game - 299 - two weeks ago. He and a group of family members and family friends - all in their 20s - played euchre and pinochle regularly. He called them “the boyz.” They called him “Bob-o.”

“It was a way for him to take their money,” his daughter said. For a decade, he and relatives played cards every Saturday night, from 6 p.m. until the birds started chirping.

“It was so fun,” his daughter recalled. “We'd get so mad at him because he could count cards and he would beat us all the time.”

Surviving are his wife, Pat, whom he married Sept. 1, 1995; daughter, LuAnn Cole; sons, Robert and Randy Lynch and Eddie Rahm; sister, Barb; brothers, Chuck, Kenny, and Jim Lynch, and six granddaughters.

Services will be at 1 p.m. Tuesday in the H.H. Birkenkamp Mortuary, Trilby Chapel, where the body will be after 2 p.m. tomorrow.



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