DEFIANCE - Mary A. "Sal" Hench, 84, a community benefactor who helped her husband at the founding of Chief Supermarkets, died Sunday in Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center, Toledo.
She had congestive heart failure and kidney failure, her daughter-in-law Denise Hench said.
Mrs. Hench was involved from the beginning of the first Chief Supermarket, which opened in 1951.
Her husband, Ted, had worked at the meat market that his father, Karl, began in 1905. Ted and his brother and the owner of another market, John Nolan, Jr., got together to start Chief.
She was a cashier and worked on the books.
"Everybody had to pitch in and do what they could," her daughter-in-law said. "It was a real risk. Supermarkets were pretty new, the concept."
She later stayed home to care for her children. The business remains in the family, with her sons and now her eldest grandson involved.
The first Chief building was donated to the city of Defiance for its use. Her donations led to the building of a skate park in Paulding, Ohio, so young people had a place to go.
Mrs. Hench also was a supporter of the Defiance Regional Medical Center Foundation, St. John Church, of which she was a member; Defiance College, and the Community Pregnancy Centers of Northwest Ohio.
"She knew what it was like to need, but she also was very thoughtful about where she donated," her daughter-in-law said. "She researched the need and the impact and met with people, and after she met with the boys" - her sons - "she would make her decision and her donation.
"When she and my father-in-law became blessed to not have to struggle paycheck to paycheck, they thought it their obligation to help others."
Born Dec. 16, 1925, she was athletic from an early age. She played Girls Athletic Association basketball while a student at Paulding High School.
After she graduated, she was a secretary for a factory in Paulding on weekdays. On weekends, she pitched for a women's semiprofessional team based in Fort Wayne, Ind.
"She was known for her fast hardball," her daughter-in-law said. "She still threw a mean ball until a couple years ago, and she had a wonderful sidearm pitch."
She sponsored the Sal Hench Softball Field at Defiance College and the Karla Hench Softball Training Room at the University of Michigan, where her daughter was an athlete. She was a supporter of the Ohio Women's Golf Open.
"She just loved sports, and she loved to be competitive," her daughter said. "She was always by my side and was my coach in every sport that I played - softball, golf, basketball. She was my mentor."
Mrs. Hench was honored for her leadership by the Defiance chamber of commerce and the community foundation. She received an honorary doctorate from Defiance College.
She and her husband, Ted, married Aug. 16, 1950. He died Aug. 7, 1986.
Surviving are her sons, Mark, Eric, and Curt Hench, daughter, Karla Hench, nine grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.
Services will be at 11 a.m. Friday at St. John Church, Defiance. Arrangements are by the Lawson-Roessner Funeral Home, Defiance.
The family suggests tributes to the church, the Defiance Area Foundation, or Defiance College.
Contact Mark Zaborney at: