Family and friends describe grocery store founder George Schild as a man who knew his customers by name and treated his employees like family.
Schild, 89, died Monday morning at Fisher-Titus Medical Center, only months after the death of his wife, Irma.
Schild, a decorated World War II veteran, learned the grocery store trade from his uncle while working at the Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. grocery store. He founded Schild's Food Town in 1946 in Monroeville and moved his business to Norwalk nine years later -- where it remains despite competition from grocery store behemoths like Wal-Mart and Giant Eagle. He sold the store to his son, David Schild, in 1990.
Since it first opened in Norwalk, Schild's IGA Foodliner has evolved with the changing times, expanding from a 12,000-square-foot corner store to a 41,000-square-foot mega mart.
Schild's store supervisor Wendy Gregory said George Schild and his wife knew almost everybody who walked into their store by their first name.
"They came to every employee's wedding and were just very involved in all their employee's families," she said. "They talked to all our kids and knew all our kids."
Schild has his son to carry on his legacy.
"That's what people still want," David Schild said, "a proprietor with employees who know their name, have a smile for them. In this fast-paced world, I think people still appreciate a smile."
David Schild said his father had been diagnosed with a colon-related disease called diverticulitis, and his health was failing for some time. David took his father to Fisher-Titus Medical Center Wednesday when George -- who rarely complained -- spoke of severe stomach pains.
"He had a blood clot," David Schild said. "It may have went right up into the brain, and I guess that just short-circuits the heart. He died sort of in an instant. I guess it was just his time."
George Schild leaves behind not only a adoring family, but an loving community.
"Schild's is known for their commitment to the area, tremendous generosity to schools and other organizations," Norwalk Mayor Sue Lesch said. "It's really been outstanding for decades."
David Schild said he has no regrets when it comes to his parents.
"They had a full life. They really had a wonderful life," he said. "I always did something with my parents. We always went places... My father and I were very, very close."