Florence Meach; 1921-2014: Store owner was advocate for disabled


GRAND RAPIDS, Ohio — Florence Meach, champion of a Wood County program for those with developmental disabilities and who, with her husband, Orval, owned an old-fashioned variety store and helped found a church, died Tuesday in Wood Haven Health Care, Bowling Green.

She was 92 and had a stroke, her daughter, Robin, said.

The Meaches’ son, John, has Down syndrome, and the couple were advocates for residential and other services offered by Wood Lane. Her husband helped start a Boy Scout troop and they were counselors and cooks at the summer camp they helped found.

“She wanted to make sure he could develop into his full potential,” their daughter said. “This became their life’s work, so he could have a full life.”

Mrs. Meach and several other mothers raised funds through bake sales, said Patricia Duslak, a niece. They also “kept pulling the ears of the local state legislators to get funding for Wood Lane.”

“She was a dynamo. She was a go-getter, and if something needed to be done, she was there,” Mrs. Duslak said.

In 1982, Mrs. Meach traveled to Columbus and received from then-Gov. James A. Rhodes a mother of the year award. Their son now lives in Meach Home, a Wood Lane group home in Bowling Green.

The family moved to Grand Rapids from Toledo in the early 1960s and took over the Grand Rapids Variety Store. Mr. Meach still worked as a Sealtest milkman, and so Mrs. Meach was on duty in the store for much of the day. Patrons could find sewing supplies, school supplies, greeting cards, books, magazines, comic books, clothing, hardware, and toiletries. The glass candy counter, filled with penny candy, candy bars, and chocolates, drew the attention of children.

“She was notorious for giving out free samples,” Mrs. Duslak said.

The Meaches left the business by 1974, their daughter said.

About 1980, she and her husband and several others in the area started what became Hosanna Lutheran Church, and then took up the duty of raising money to build a permanent home for the congregation. The new church was dedicated in 1982.

“She was very proud of that,” her daughter said.

She was born July 5, 1921, to Flora and Charles Mack and grew up in West Toledo. She and her brother, Ira, were children when their mother died. Relatives offered to take the children, but their father was determined to keep them at home.

“He worked very hard at it,” her daughter said. “My mom at even an early age kept house and cooked for her dad and her brother. She grew up being a mommy at an early age.”

Grace Wharton, a neighbor, offered help, and Mrs. Meach and Mrs. Wharton’s daughter, Ruth, were lifelong friends.

Mrs. Meach was a graduate of DeVilbiss High School. She was a former president of the American Legion Auxiliary in Grand Rapids.

She and her husband married June 2, 1951. He died July 15, 1990.

Surviving are her daughter, Robin Digby; stepdaughter, Patricia Stambaugh; son, John Meach; seven grandchildren; 26 great-grandchildren, and two great-great-granddaughters.

Visitation will be 4-8 p.m. Friday in the Wright-Habegger Funeral Home, Grand Rapids. Services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday in Hosanna Lutheran Church, Grand Rapids.

The family suggests tributes to Wood Lane Residential Services’ Meach Home in Bowling Green or Hosanna Lutheran Church.

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