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Published: Sunday, 11/28/2004

Healthy-eating advocate ran natural-foods store

GENOA - Veronica R. Dietrich, a living dictionary on dietary habits and a regular "Jane Appleseed" of Genoa, died Thursday at her son's home in Toledo. She was 79.

Ms. Dietrich died after a stroke while riding her bicycle, family members said.

Having grown up on a large farm and orchard in Wauseon, Ms. Dietrich graduated from Liberty Center High School in the early 1940s, and shortly thereafter began working as a secretary at Aetna Life Insurance Co. in Toledo.

One night at the time, Ms. Dietrich went out with a girlfriend to a health food lecture. Not only did she meet the man she would soon marry, she discovered an ideology that would shape her way of life until the day she died.

Ms. Dietrich became engrossed in the subject of healthy eating habits, reading book after book on the topic. In 1950, she was married to Eugene Dietrich, and the two took over Dietrich's Natural Foods in the 300 block of Summit Street in Toledo from Mr. Dietrich's father.

A gregarious person, Ms. Dietrich immediately planted both feet firmly into the customer side of the business.

"When a customer would come in, they would usually be rushing, everybody was busy," Frank Dietrich, her son, said. "But when she'd start talking to them about nutrition and improving their health, what was amazing about it was they lost all their time constraints. They'd keep talking to her until another customer walked in."

In time, Ms. Dietrich had a library of over 1,000 health books in her store, and sometimes invited customers to her 60-acre farm in Genoa, which she and her husband bought in 1959.

"She planted trees everywhere, at all her family members' houses, people she would meet," Frank said. "Lots of people she met from the store would come out to the farm and pick up a tree."

The farm produced a cornucopia of organic crops, grown mostly for her family, though some were sold at the store. In her own private garden Ms. Dietrich grew things such as fruit trees, comfrey - or "knit-bone", and kale for Vitamin A.

Particularly healthy items, in Ms. Dietrich's opinion, included raw sunflower seeds, fresh vegetable juices - and books, of course.

Ms Dietrich often talked at local colleges as well as at the Toledo Organic Garden Club about healthy dietary habits.

Though her husband died in 1965, Ms. Dietrich stayed with the store until retiring in 2000. She was also a member of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church.

Surviving are her daughters, Bernadette Dezanette, Charlene Williams, Monica Beattie, Rita Jester, and Junella Bradfield; sons Frank and Christopher, and 24 grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 2 to 8 p.m. today at the Robinson-Henn-Brossia & Walker Funeral Home. Services will be at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church.

The family suggests memorials to Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church.

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