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Published: Wednesday, 10/19/2011

Joan Oswald, 1941-2011: Appliance store vice president a bridge master

BY JIM SIELICKI
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Joan Oswald, a master bridge player who forged a strong partnership with her late husband, Chuck, in founding and transforming a mom-and-pop retail appliance store into a multimillion-dollar operation in Maumee, died Monday in the Goerlich Center for Alzheimer’s Care in Sylvania.

She was 70 and suffered from dementia, daughters Theresa Ahrens and Bonnie Oswald said.

Mrs. Oswald was a pioneer in introducing Toledo to platform tennis, a hybrid game that combines tennis and racquetball played on a court surrounded by fencing, Bonnie Oswald said.

The Oswalds built a platform tennis court at home in Maumee and once hosted a regional competition. They were avid tennis fans, and they visited Britain for tennis championships at Wimbledon as well as to the U.S. and French opens.

“They made it to all of the majors,” Ms. Oswald said.

She was a master bridge player. She and her husband were introduced to the game by the late Nap Nassr, a bridge columnist for The Blade, and his wife. The Nassrs and the Oswalds developed a close relationship, and Mr. Nassr became the godparent to their youngest son, John, daughter Theresa Ahrens said. “Mr. Nassr was instrumental in how they came to be bridge players,” Mrs. Ahrens said.

Playing Scrabble was a daily activity for Mrs. Oswald. She loved words and read many, many books, Bonnie Oswald said.

Mrs. Oswald was born in Whitehouse, to Thelma Gingrich Cyigon and Elza Wittenmyer. She graduated from Rossford High School.

She met her future husband, a student at Central Catholic High School, on a blind date set up by friends when she was 15 and he was 16, Ms. Oswald said.

“They decided to do a double date, and after that, they were never separated,” Ms. Oswald said.

Mr. Oswald took pains to return home early from business trips to be with his wife and family. “They were childhood sweethearts. They were each other’s first loves and only loves,” Mrs. Ahrens said. “It was a rare and beautiful thing for us.”

Mrs. Oswald’s husband began working part-time at Appliance Plaza while in high school. The business expanded over the years into the Appliance Center, with Mr. Oswald president. Mrs. Oswald, who was vice-president, took a quiet role in its development, her daughters said.

“She was the strong, silent partner,” Mrs. Ahrens said, calling the business a “seventh sibling. She was there from the very beginning when he was just delivering appliances.”

She did not have a college education, choosing instead to raise a family of six children, while pitching in to help with the business. “I promise, we were a full-time job for her,” Ms. Oswald said.

Her mother was active in social circles and assisted with causes such as Rotary International fund-raisers, Make-A-Wish Tennis Pro-Am, Central Catholic, and medical issues.

“Wherever there was need, she and Dad were active when asked to give,” Ms. Oswald said. “Giving was very important in how we were raised. It was important to share with the less fortunate.”

Chuck Oswald died in June, 2004. Ms. Oswald said her mother’s health began failing soon afterward.

Joan Oswald is survived by her daughters, Theresa Ahrens, Julie Abbey, Bonnie Oswald, Jennifer Oswald; sons, Chuck and John; mother, Thelma Gingrich Wittenmyer Cyigon; sister, Barb Hahn, and seven grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 4 to 8 p.m. tomorrow at the Coyle Funeral Home, where the funeral will be at 1 p.m. Friday.

Contact Jim Sielicki at: jsielicki@theblade.com or 419-724-6050.



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