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Leo Yourist, 1920-2011: Bookstore owner a downtown fixture

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Leo Yourist worked in the bookstore seven days a week and on holidays, and even during health setbacks.

THE BLADE
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Leo Yourist, 90, longtime proprietor of the former Leo's Book Shop, which sold books, magazines, and newspapers to workers and visitors in downtown Toledo for more than 40 years, died Monday in Hospice of Northwest Ohio, South Detroit Avenue.

Mr. Yourist, who lived in Sylvania Township, had been in hospice care for two weeks. He had been afflicted with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, said Lilly Yourist, his wife of 63 years.

When he opened Leo's Book & Wine Shop on Labor Day, 1967, in a leased building at 334 North Superior St., Mr. Yourist had been out of work for about a year, Mrs. Yourist said. He had worked at the former Modern Book Store and Berky's Book Store, both also on Superior.

The store from the beginning carried a wide selection of wine as well as tobacco products, beer, books, newspapers, and magazines, including foreign-language publications.

"I remember on the first day my husband made $1.75 because he sold somebody a book," Mrs. Yourist said.

Mrs. Yourist said he would arrive at the store at 6 a.m. to open at 7 a.m., and return home after closing at 9 p.m. She said he worked seven days a week and on holidays.

"The store was his first home; our house was his second home," she said. "He was always at the store. If his health had held out, he would still be working at the store."

Family members said Leo's quickly outgrew the 650-square-foot store and Mr. Yourist bought the building two doors down on Superior to more than triple its size. It became widely renowned as the only place downtown to buy out-of-town newspapers and hard-to-find magazines. Wine sales ended in 1990.

Leo's would make one more move during its run, an across-the-street hop to accommodate expansion of the city's Superior parking garage. It closed at the end of 2009.

Mr. Yourist's son Daryl started working in the store with his father when he was 14. He said customers ranged from judges and Fortune 500 chief executives to secretaries and janitors.

"We served a whole spectrum of people," he said.

Daryl Yourist eventually took over management of Leo's after the move, but the elder Yourist, despite health setbacks, including two broken hips, continued to come into the store until its closing.

The son of Russian Jewish immigrants, Mr. Yourist was one of six children. His father, who was a tailor, died when Mr. Yourist was 17. The family grew up on George Street near Cherry Street.

He graduated in 1938 from Woodward High School.

Mrs. Yourist said her husband was excellent in math and could have gone to college, but instead he stayed home to help support his mother and siblings.

Mr. Yourist worked at the downtown newspapers and magazine shops before going into the Army Air Corps in 1943.

His wife said he took training in the service to become a gunner on a plane but was never sent overseas. He was discharged in January, 1945.

The couple were married Nov. 30, 1947.

Surviving are his wife, the former Lilly Foraster, whom he married Nov. 30, 1947; sons, Jay and Daryl; daughter, Melanie Woodby; three grandchildren, and a great-grandchild.

Services will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday in the Robert H. Wick/Wisniewski Funeral Home, 2426 North Reynolds Rd. The family request tributes to Congregation Etz Chayim or the charity of the donor's choice.

-- Mark Reiter

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