Joseph M. Bassett, co-owner of two Bassett's Health Food stores in Toledo who was a pioneer in promoting herbs and dietary supplements to improve health, died Wednesday in his Sylvania Township home. He was 79.
A daughter, Charmaine Bassett Trimm, said he died of complications of a bladder and kidney infection.
Mr. Bassett and his wife, Patricia, started Bassett's Health Foods in 1969 at Cricket West Shopping Center. The business, which offered vitamins and supplements, bought out a competitor a year later in the nearby Westgate Shopping Center.
The Bassetts relocated the store to Westgate, remaining there for nearly 25 years. They eventually opened a second store on Heatherdowns Boulevard near Key Street and moved the Westgate location north on Secor Road.
According to Mrs. Trimm, the idea for the health-food store was her mother's, who had health problems as a young child. However, Mr. Bassett, who was selling real estate, became a student of the industry and grew to become an expert.
Mrs. Bassett said customers often went to her husband for advice on supplements and vitamins because of his extensive knowledge. She said he was always willing to help customers understand the importance of dietary supplements in promoting health.
"That is what he was all about," she said.
His family said he created his own formulas with herbs and vitamins and sold and marketed the products under his name.
Mr. Bassett was elected to several terms as president of the National Nutritional Foods Association, an industry trade group that represents manufacturers, marketers, and retailers.
"My dad studied under all the great experts who started the real push into nutrition. He then started teaching seminars because he had gotten so knowledgeable," daughter Sabrina Early said.
Mr. Bassett was instrumental in getting Congress to pass the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act in 1994.
The law said dietary supplements, vitamins, minerals, and herbs must be regulated as a food, not prescribed like medications.
Mr. Bassett was trained and licensed in nutritional and massage therapies, including Touch for Health.
He attended DeVilbiss High School, where he was a standout wrestler. He attended Ohio State University on a scholarship for the sport, but left school in 1952 when he was drafted into the Army.
Mr. Bassett was a tank gunner in the Korean War. He returned to Toledo and continued his education at the University of Toledo, where he joined the wrestling team.
While attending UT, Mr. Bassett was an instructor at the Arthur Murray Dance Studio in downtown Toledo. There he met another instructor, the former Patricia Martin, whom he married Sept. 22, 1958, shortly after Mr. Bassett graduated with a business degree from UT. "He always said he danced his way into my heart," Mrs. Bassett said.
After they were married, the couple moved to Los Angeles in search of employment. Mr. Bassett worked for two years as juvenile probation officer. They returned to Toledo and Mr. Bassett eventually began a computer programming school in Memphis.
Surviving are his wife, Patricia; son, Joseph, Jr.; daughters, Sabrina Early and Charmaine Bassett Trimm; brother, James; seven grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
Visitation is to be Sunday from 2 to 9 p.m. at Walker Funeral Home, 5155 W. Sylvania Ave., with services at 7 p.m. Sunday. The family suggests tributes to the Joseph M. Bassett Memorial Fund at http://www.nemenhahpress.com.
-- Mark Reiter
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