Harold M. Lincoln; 1927-2014: Food broker sought to give back for his Catholic education

Harold M. Lincoln
Harold M. Lincoln

Harold M. Lincoln, the founder nearly 60 years ago of a namesake food brokerage who made a career in groceries, from his first teenage job at a neighborhood store, died Saturday at his South Toledo home of an apparent heart attack. He was 86.

He was chairman of Harold M. Lincoln Co., and though he did not make day-to-day operating decisions, came to work daily, his son David, the company president, said.

“He was in the office last Friday,” David Lincoln said. “He'd want to know what was going on, because it was his baby.”

Mr. Lincoln's son John is vice president and son-in-law David DuMont is treasurer.

A food broker is similar to a manufacturer's representative, but works with a variety of companies to get their products on store shelves — a middle man in effect, son David said.

As Mr. Lincoln was establishing himself in the mid-1950s, he knocked on hotel doors and patrolled hotel lobbies during grocery trade conventions, all to “convince them he could do the job for them,” son David said. “Everything he did he scratched out himself.

“He got numerous awards over the years for outstanding performance, not only local awards, but national awards,” son David said. “He knew his products. He knew his customers.”

In the 1970s and 1980s, the company had offices in Fort Wayne, Ind., Detroit, and Bay City and Grand Rapids, Mich.

Both in sales and as a manager, he was easy going and easy to talk to, son David said.

“His door was always open,” son David said. “If you had something personal to talk to him about, or business wise, he'd say, ‘Come in and have a seat.’”

He was born Oct. 8, 1927, to Ruby and Harold Lincoln. He grew up in a single parent home and once said he was glad he grew up during the Depression “because it made him appreciate things more,” son David said.

To help his mother and the family, he went to work for Jack and Ida Erlen at Toby’s Food Market at Bancroft Street and Upton Avenue while attending Central Catholic High School. He developed a lifelong affinity for the grocery business — and a longtime friendship with the Erlens.

“He treated them like they were his own parents”" the Erlens’ daughter, Marcia Dolin, said. In the 1960s, Mr. Erlen went to work for the Harold M. Lincoln Co.

“He was such a good person, and he loved people,” Mrs. Dolin said.

Mr. Lincoln was a 1945 graduate of Central Catholic and joined the Merchant Marine, where he served aboard the type of cargo vessel known as a Liberty ship. Afterward, he took a job in sales at Gerber, the baby food company.

He was a strong supporter of Catholic education — his children and grandchildren attended Catholic schools — motivated by an anonymous benefactor who paid his way through Gesu School.

“He felt indebted and he wanted to return the favor to Catholic education,” his son David said. Mr. Lincoln was especially active in support of the Urusuline sisters and at St. Francis de Sales and Central Catholic high schools.

He and his wife, Mary, married June 26, 1948. She died May 21, 2004.

Surviving are his sons, David and John; daughters, Mary Sue DuMont, Margaret McGovern, Marcia Urban, and Marilyn Hall; sister, Mary Kohli; 17 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 2-8 p.m. today in the Coyle Funeral Home. A recitation of the Rosary will be at 7 p.m. in the mortuary by Logsdon-Walla Catholic War Veterans Post 639, of which he was a longtime member. Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday in Gesu Church.

The family suggests tributes to the Ursuline Center; St. Francis de Sales High School; Central Catholic High School, or Gesu Church.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.