LIMA, Ohio - Clyde Evans, who bought and expanded a local grocery store into a regional chain of more than a dozen markets bearing his name, died Wednesday in Lima Memorial Hospital at age 91.
The exact cause of Mr. Evans' death is unknown, but his health had been in decline for about a year, said Barbara Evans, his wife of 41 years.
Mrs. Evans said she met Mr. Evans while representing him in legal battles that arose over his original market's operations on off-hours and Sundays, and raffles it held, including one for a new car.
"It was making the traditional people pretty perturbed" that the Clyde Evans Market was challenging the status quo, Mrs. Evans said, but it brought many customers into the store. Mr. Evans successfully fought the summonses he received for Sunday operation and operating a lottery, she said.
A civilian boilermaker for the U.S. military in Hawaii during World War II and a construction engineer by trade after that, Mr. Evans knew nothing about the grocery business when he bought the store from a friend during the early 1950s, Mrs. Evans said.
"The building was just a little cubbyhole, but he added and added to it," she said.
Eventually, he began adding stores in nearby communities as well, including Upper Sandusky, Van Wert, Ottawa, Ada, and Bluffton.
At its peak, Clyde Evans Markets employed more than 1,300 people. It also had a development arm, the Clyde Evans Land Co.
Mrs. Evans said her husband cared deeply about his employees, and quietly helped those who fell on hard times.
"If he found out they were in trouble, that's where he was," she said.
In 1994, Mr. Evans sold all but one of the stores to SuperValu, a food wholesaler that had been one of his primary grocery suppliers, and retired. While maintaining their residence in Lima, the Evanses established a second home along the Kissimmee River chain in Florida, where they could enjoy Mr. Evans' other passion, fishing.
"We went fishing on our honeymoon, to Manitoulin Island" on the Canadian side of Lake Huron, recalled Mrs. Evans, who shares her husband's interest in the sport.
Mr. Evans graduated high school in his native Goldsboro, N.C., where he was a football star who once scored seven touchdowns in a single game. He attended one semester of college, but then took a job to support himself during the Great Depression, Mrs. Evans said.
He was a member of Trinity United Methodist Church, to which he donated his final store on Lima's Market Street. The building was razed and its site converted into a park. He was also a member of Elks Lodge 54 and Eagles Aerie 370.
Mr. Evans is survived by his wife, the former Barbara Rizor; his former wife, Marjorie McElroy Evans; son, David Clyde Evans; daughter, Sharon "Sherry" Vida; stepsons, Paul and Brad Rizor; sisters, Elaine Cravitz and Carolyn Heil; 14 grandchildren, and 15 great-grandchildren.
The body will be in the Chamberlain-Huckeriede Funeral Home, Lima, where the family will receive visitors after 2 p.m. today. Funeral services will begin at 11 a.m. tomorrow in Trinity United Methodist Church, Lima.
Tributes may be made to Trinity Park in care of the church, or to a charity of the donor's choice.
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