Sylvia Jechura, 86, a regular presence at Raceway Park in the years her husband was an owner, a pillar of support on the homefront and a leader of groups at her parish, died Monday in Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center.
She’d suffered complications after a fall at West Park Place in West Toledo, where she lived nearly three years, granddaughter Carey Man-ders said.
Mrs. Jechura returned to Toledo so she could be near family members after the Nov. 25, 2009, death of her husband, Sylvester “Shake” Jechura.
The couple retired to Largo, Fla., in the late 1980s after her husband sold his interest in Raceway Park.
Mrs. Jechura’s husband and his brothers first joined to form a construction company. They built Raceway for stock-car racing in 1949 but made it into a thoroughbred and harness race track by the late 1950s. Her husband became general manager after the death in 1962 of his brother Stanley. He later was president.
The Jechuras’ daughters Susan and Sharon worked at Raceway through the years. Mrs. Jechura never did. “He spent many hours away from home. She had to raise the children and take care of the household, and her parents lived with them,” her granddaughter said. “She was definitely the manager of the household while he ran the business and supported him in any endeavor, especially after the devastating fire.”
The 1976 blaze destroyed Raceway’s 6,000-seat grandstand and led to the deaths of 40 racehorses. “She encouraged him to rebuild and follow his dreams,” their granddaughter said.
She and her mother, Stella Karnikowski, were regulars at Raceway.
“They loved the camaraderie and enjoyed the people of the racetrack,” her granddaughter said. “She was a very social person."
Mrs. Jechura was known for the silk flower she wore in her hair, and she seemed to have a blossom to match every outfit.
Penn National, Raceway Park’s current owner, announced sometime before opening the Hollywood Casino Toledo that it would move harness racing from Raceway to a new track in Dayton. “It broke her heart to see her husband’s and his family’s hard work turned into nothing,” her granddaughter said.
Her husband retired not long after the sudden death at age 41 of daughter Susan Wagner.
“That devastated my grandparents, and I don’t think either of them got over it,” said their granddaughter, Susan’s daughter.
Her daughter, Sharon Jechura, dealt with cancer and other illnesses for years and died Jan. 16.
“It’s a very sad thing to lose both of your children. I think my grandmother is the strongest person for having to deal with that,” her granddaughter said.
Mrs. Jechura was a founding member of Regina Coeli Church. She was a former president of the Altar Rosary Society and the parish’s St. Francis Guild. She also was a member of the Salesians.
Mrs. Jechura was a former Girl Scout leader and took part in groups of friends that went for lunch on each other’s birthdays and met to play canasta.
She was born Dec. 11, 1926, to Stella and Joseph Karnikowski, and grew up in the Polish-American neighborhood along Lagrange Street. She was a Woodward High School graduate and was a sales clerk at the Tiedtke’s store downtown.
Surviving are five grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
Memorial services will be at 10:30 a.m. Saturday in the Sujkowski Funeral Home Northpointe, where family and friends may call after 9 a.m. A recitation of the Rosary will be at 10 a.m. in the mortuary.
The family suggests tributes to Regina Coeli Church.
Contact Mark Zaborney at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6182.