TWINSBURG — In his 95 years — all of them except maybe three or four as a Twinsburg resident — George C. (Joe) Richner Jr. was a World War II veteran, well-respected businessman, First Congregational Church worshipper and a member of several organizations.
But one of his most notable distinctions was that at the time of his death on March 28, he was believed to be the oldest living graduate of Twinsburg High (1941) who still resided in the city.
After high school, he attended Fenn College of Engineering.
A memorial service took place April 15 at the First Congregational Church on Twinsburg Township Square. Friends were to be received April 14 at Johnson-Romito Funeral Home.
Many of those who knew him, though, remember him for his years as proprietor of Richner Hardware and Richner Plumbing & Heating, going to work at the hardware store in the 1940s after serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II.
The hardware store on the north end of the Square closed in 2014 after serving the community for 95 years. His grandfather, Charles Richner, opened the store in 1919. Charles, who was the father of 10 children, died in 1947 at age 86.
An item on Twinsburg Historical Society’s website says, "Richner’s was a fixture in Twinsburg — a place where one could rest assured they’d run into someone they knew."
The store was located in three different buildings on the Square during its nearly 100 years of operation.
Twinsburg Historical Society member Rich Bissell, who is a nephew of Mr. Richner, said he was a "very involved" member of the historical society, and served several years as a trustee.
"He was very involved with the group," Bissell said. "He enjoyed history and learning about the Twinsburg of old. When the original Crouse Tin Shop / Richner Hardware building was torn down, he donated many of the old tools to the historical society, and we still have them in the Freeman Barn."
Bissell said Mr. Richner grew up in a house on Route 82 next to Burger King, later lived in a house that’s no longer standing and spent the last 52 years at his home on Ravenna Road.
"He had a great sense of humor and a quick wit," said Bissell. "He was a member of the church for 50-plus years, and I believe he was the last living charter member of VFW Post 4929."
Post Commander Joe Jasany confirmed Mr. Richner was the last living charter member.
"He actively participated in post activities up until a few months ago, including in last year’s Memorial Day Parade," said Jasany.
Bissell recalled his uncle growing up, going fishing a lot with a buddy. When he went to bed the night before a fishing outing, he tied a string to his finger. It extended out the bedroom window, and if he didn’t wake up early the next morning, his buddy outside pulled on the string to wake him up.
Mr. Richner was born on Christmas Eve in 1923. In addition to his previously mentioned affiliations, he once served as a trustee for the First Congregational Church and was a member of Summit Masonic Lodge and the Twinsburg Volunteer Fire Department.
Dave Murch, who owned the hardware store in its final years, said he knew Mr. Richner well since marrying into the family in the early 1970s. Murch’s wife Liz is the great-granddaughter of hardware store founder Charles Richner.
Murch called Mr. Richner "an all-around nice man and one of a kind. He accepted me as an ‘outlaw.’ When the family split the hardware and plumbing business in 1974, George took over the plumbing side. Although he retired in the late 1970s or early 1980s, he came back to work for me in the hardware store for a while in the 1990s."
Murch, who is a member of Summit Masonic Lodge, said Mr. Richner was "a loyal member" for probably 60 to 65 years.
Mr. Richner is survived by his wife Marjorie, children Daniel (Judith) Richner and Jennifer (Mike) Merritt, grandchildren Melanie and Bradley Merritt and Gwendolyn and Seth Richner and brother Robert (Virginia) Richner.
He was the son of the late George C. Sr. and Mary (Wuzbacher) Richner.
Reporter Ken Lahmers can be reached at 330-541-9400, ext. 4189 or firstname.lastname@example.org.