Margaret Bench, who drove tractors, picked produce — which she sold from a roadside stand — and with her husband, Charles, ran a successful tomato and produce farm and market, died Tuesday in her Jerusalem Township home. She was 93.
She had Alzheimer’s disease the last 11 years, but was able to remain in her home with the care of son and daughter-in-law David and Cindy Bench, who now run Bench Farms on Jerusalem Road, said daughter Linda Rossler. Another son and daughter-in-law, Donald and Janice Bench, operate Bench’s Greenhouse in Elmore.
The couple took over a dairy farm when they married in 1940. They shifted to produce exclusively the next year.
They raised tomatoes, cucumbers, and sugar beets, and later produce for market, and for the roadside stand that Mrs. Bench fashioned under an apple tree.
By 1944, the Benches’ 128 truckloads of tomatoes taken to H.J. Heinz was acclaimed as being the biggest delivery by any single grower to a single Heinz plant in one season.
Mrs. Bench drove every piece of farm equipment and was in the field at harvest time. She was a mother of five and prepared two meals daily, served promptly at noon and 6.
“And you had to be there,” her daughter said. "She would be upset if you weren’t there. I don’t know how she did it. I’m amazed, because I remember her running out and waiting on customers.”
The Benches had extra hands at harvest, especially from a family with 17 children who moved to Jerusalem Township from Kansas.
“She was very enjoyable,” said Nadine “Perk” Reinhart, 82, who worked on the farm from ages 12 to 21, when she married. “She never did get mad at us kids, regardless of what we did. She worked right alongside us. We didn’t think of her as the boss.”
Later, when Mrs. Bench and Mrs. Reinhart saw each other “we would talk about the old days, the good old times. It was hard work, but we enjoyed every bit of it.”
Mrs. Bench was a local official for the Lucas County Board of Elections for more than 25 years. She was a trustee of the Jerusalem Historical Society and was a 62-year member of Woodbine Chapter, Order of Eastern Star. She grew roses in front of the house and was a member of Erie Valley Trail Garden Club.
At St. Mark Lutheran Church in East Toledo, she was president of the women of the church and cooked meals and donated potato salad and pies to church functions.
Born Feb. 3, 1920, to Blanche and Otto Turnow, she grew up on Yondota Road and attended a one-room school house across from the family farm. She was a 1938 graduate of Clay High School, where she played basketball.
She and her husband married April 20, 1940. He died Nov. 16, 1994.
Surviving are her sons, Donald and David; daughters, Diane Dickinson and Linda Rossler; sister, Kathryn Lumbrezer; 17 grandchildren, and 29 great-grandchildren.
Services will be at 2 p.m. today in St. Peter Lutheran Church, Martin, Ohio, where the body will be after noon. Arrangements were by the Eggleston-Meinert-Pavley Funeral Home, Millbury Chapel.
The family suggests tributes to Hospice of Northwest Ohio or St. Mark Lutheran Church in East Toledo.
Contact Mark Zaborney at: email@example.com or 419-724-6182.
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