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Published: Tuesday, 3/15/2005

Arlington Hardware co-owner was active in community work

ARLINGTON - Cleo M. Gillespie, 93, longtime co-owner of Arlington Hardware with her late husband Lee Gillespie, died Friday of cardiac arrest in Blanchard Valley Regional Health Center in Findlay, family members said.

Daughters Shirley Lee and Jane DeLury called their mother "ahead of her time," attending business school and running the family hardware business with their father for nearly 30 years.

When they sold the business, she became active in community work, but treasured being a good friend to many other people she knew, they said.

"She taught us there was good in all people and to never judge anyone," Mrs. Lee said. "She never had a negative thing to say about anyone. Even if you tried to get her to do it, she would always be able to point out some good qualities about them."

Mrs. Gillespie was born to George and Eliza Wertenberger in 1912. She lived in the same home nearly her entire life, Mrs. DeLury said. "The house was built in 1898 by her father," Mrs. DeLury said. "She lived there until about six weeks ago."

George Wertenberger owned businesses in the Arlington area. Mrs. Gillespie's older brother, Marvin Wertenberger, played football and attended Capital University.

"He was seven years older and he was a big influence in her life," Mrs. DeLury said. "He believed his sister should go to college, too. [Grandfather] was a businessman, so it was determined that she would attend business school. [Marvin Wertenberger] was very instrumental in her education."

Mrs. Gillespie graduated from Northwest Business School in Lima. She met her husband when the hatchery company he worked for moved next to the Wertenbergers' furniture business. "Grandfather introduced them," Mrs. Lee said. "Father was working at this incubator company and he invited him over for dinner. I think it was love at first sight."

Mr. Gillespie would run several businesses, including the hardware store from 1945 to 1974, the daughters said.

"She was a very astute businesswoman," Mrs. Lee said. "Later, [Mr. Gillespie] would travel for Sherwin-Williams and she would pretty much run the store, with the help of other employees."

The couple were avid golfers and would travel to Kenton to play until they became members of the Sycamore Golf Club. The daughters said being a woman never deterred her from playing the game.

"She would tell you she was a tomboy," Mrs. Lee said. "In her later years when she couldn't walk the course, she would ride in the cart and say, 'I'll just putt.' Before you know it she was swinging the driver."

She was a member of Good Hope Evangelical Lutheran Church for nearly her entire life. She also involved with the Ladies Aid Society, Bible Study Group at the church, and the Gideons Auxiliary.

The family also enjoyed traveling all across the United States, the daughters said.

Surviving are a son, David K. Gillespie; daughters, Shirley L. Lee and Jane G. DeLury; 14 grandchildren, 22 great-grandchildren, and 3 great-great grandchildren.

Visitation for Mrs. Gillespie will be from 10 to 11 a.m. today at Good Hope Evangelical Lutheran Church, Arlington. Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. at the church today. Crates Funeral Home in Arlington is handling arrangements.

The family suggests tributes be made to Good Hope Evangelical Lutheran or to Gideons International.



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