Thelma Cyigon, the active and plain-spoken matriarch of a large extended family who was widely recognized as "Grandma" from commercials for the family-owned Appliance Center, died Thursday in the Perrysburg home of her granddaughter, Julie Abbey, where she lived the last two years. She was 98.
She was in declining health recently, a complication of arteriosclerosis, said her daughter, who is vice president of the business. Mrs. Cyigon attended the Mud Hens home opener in April and until a few months ago pedaled her three-wheeler around the neighborhood.
"She just loved life," Mrs. Abbey said. "She was independent at home and outside. She was just fun, super fun."
Mrs. Cyigon went hang gliding in her 80s and hot-air ballooning to celebrate her 90th birthday.
"We traveled a lot of places. I had her with me in Las Vegas a year ago," Mrs. Abbey said. "She got her hair done every Friday. She just looked like, 'I'm going to be the talk of the town.' Nobody ever believed she was my grandmother."
Mrs. Cyigon's daughter the late Joan Oswald and son-in-law the late Chuck Oswald were owners and partners in the growth of Appliance Center. Her grandson John Oswald is president of the business.
At her grandchildren's request, she agreed to be in a commercial. At least four others followed over several years. She also appeared in newspaper ads and on signs displayed in the stores.
Her best known commercial was with great-grandson Jack.
"Do you know why Appliance Center has been around for a half a century?" Mrs. Cyigon asked the boy.
"Why, Grandma?" Jack responded.
"Because the best products make the the best customers," Mrs. Cyigon said.
As Jack furiously loaded a washer, Mrs. Cyigon said, "Super-duper capacity!" As they sat on a bed, Mrs. Cyigon said, "Comfy mattresses," as Jack reclined and said "Oh, yeah!" In front of a television, she said, "The best TV selection!" Jack said, "The best!" and flashed a thumbs up.
"She loved the camera, the camera loved her, and she loved the notoriety," Mrs. Abbey said. "She was known by many people in the community as 'Grandma,' and she never corrected anybody. She was Grandma to everybody."
Sarah Oswald, a great-granddaughter, said: "She was a mother to her four children, but she was a mother to anybody who encountered her. She loved that, being there for people. Her unconditional love was great, even better for those lucky enough to be related to her."
Mrs. Cyigon was born Oct. 1, 1919, near Custar, Ohio, to Mabel and John Gingrich.
A graduate of Rossford High School, she married at age 16 and gave birth at age 19 to twin daughters. She worked at a meat market and, in order to be home with the children, the night shift at Johns-Manville Corp.
In later years, she and William Spratt, her life partner of more than 20 years, went dancing most weekends at Centennial Terrace and other venues. She was a longtime member of the Eagles in Rossford, where she served as president
She was preceded in death by her daughters Bonnie Westfall and Joan Oswald and son William Wittenmyer.
She was formerly married to the late Elza Wittenmyer. Her second husband, Jules Cyigon, died Sept. 28, 1976. Mr. Spratt died Sept. 11, 2007.
"She said 'I feel I had three lives.' She had three men who adored her and loved her," Mrs. Abbey said.
Surviving are her daughter, Barb Hahn; 13 grandchildren, and many great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.
An Eagles service will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday in the Sujkowski Funeral Home of Rossford, 830 Lime City Rd. with visitation afterward. There will be no formal funeral service, but a time for sharing memories is to begin at noon.
The family suggests tributes in Thelma's memory to Hospice of Northwest Ohio.
Hospice of Northwest Ohio
30000 East River Rd., Perrysburg OH 43551