Betty J. Root, 1918-2013; Woman founded, ran small business


Betty J. Root, who started and operated a small business in Toledo with her husband and kept it going after his death, died in her Toledo home Thursday. She was 94.

She died of heart failure, her son Randall Root said.

Root Office Products started as Basil Root Business Machines in the late 1950s, after Mrs. Root convinced her husband, Basil, to leave his job at the Underwood typewriting company to start his own business.

Randall said his mother wanted his father to be someone who tried to make it on his own, rather than be an average company employee.

“They wanted to control their life,” he said. “And the only way that she thought they could do that, and where they agreed, is that he had to go into business, which is kind of frightening because neither one of them had any experience in running anything. But they just thought, ‘If we could do that, maybe we'll fail but we can control the very basics of our life, where we can physically live, where our kids can go to school, then everything will work out.’”

The company first began selling business machines such as typewriters, before evolving to include technologically updated materials.

Mrs. Root’s family moved frequently when she was young, but eventually settled down the street from where his future wife lived, her son said. Mr. Root had a pear tree in his yard, and arranged a deal with Mrs. Root’s brother, Harry, when he was 22 and she was 17.

“‘I will give you a pear if you tell me when your parents aren’t home,’ because he wanted to go down and introduce himself [to his future wife],” Randall recounted.

Mr. and Mrs. Root dated for about a year before marrying on May 1, 1937.

Mr. Root died in 1977, and Mrs. Root was never quite the same after his death, Randall said. She never thought about marrying again.

“She was widowed at 58 and the guys came calling, but that was the only man she would ever love,” Randall said.

Mrs. Root was a passionate homemaker and cook.

She was born in Toledo on Nov. 20, 1918, to George A. and Mabel J. Parker.

She grew up in a family of eight children and was a Libbey High School graduate.

Surviving are sons Donald and Randall; sisters Evelyn Barefoot and Gertrude Thume; two granddaughters, and four great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be from noon to 2 p.m. Monday at the Walter Funeral Home, 4653 Glendale Ave., with funeral services immediately following.

The family suggests memorials to a charity of the donor's choice.

Contact Sam Gans at:

or 419-724-6516.