MANCHESTER — Long after Sylvio LeBlanc retired from the hardware store he founded in 1967, you could find him outside pulling weeds around the store or outside his home on the West Side.
It’s the kind of work ethic he instilled in his five children and, later, 12 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.
The family members who continue to operate LeBlanc’s True Value Hardware will take a break Thursday to attend his funeral — a rare weekday the Hayward Street store will be closed.
LeBlanc, 102, died Jan. 22 after a brief period of declining health. But it took a long time for age to finally catch up with him. When LeBlanc visited the store in June 2017 to celebrate its 50th anniversary, he drove there himself. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, he was still spending his winters in Sarasota, Fla., where he liked to ride his bike.
“I must have been in my 80s when I started to slow down,” LeBlanc said during that 2017 store visit. “But I liked to come in and meet some of my old customers and visit for awhile. We had wonderful customers in here.”
LeBlanc got his start working for two long-gone hardware stores, Moreau’s on Elm Street, and Gosselin’s on the West Side, which was operated by his brother-in-law. After working for Gosselin’s for more than 20 years, he bought Proulx’s Hardware at 156 Wilson St.
Six years later, after a fire destroyed the building, LeBlanc started over again at the corner of Hayward and Jewett streets. In 1980, he moved the business to its current location. His wife, Lucille, who died in 2016, was his business partner.
A paper sign on the door Wednesday alerted customers that the store would be closed Thursday “in loving memory of our father, Syl LeBlanc,” for the 10 a.m. funeral at the Parish of the Transfiguration.
Inside, customers were getting keys made and roaming the aisles for hardware parts. LeBlanc’s is the kind of store where you can’t wander too far before someone offers to help you find what you need.
“No matter who came in and what the problem was, we had advice,” Sylvio LeBlanc said in 2017.
LeBlanc kept his mind sharp from playing cribbage and dominoes, said his son, Phil LeBlanc, who runs the store these days.
“When he would win at dominoes, just the look on his face was worth a million bucks,” said Phil, whose sons Steve and Nat were also both working at the store Wednesday.
The family did not have calling hours due to COVID-19 concerns and is asking anyone who comes to the funeral to wear a mask. They will not be greeting guests after the Mass, but plan to schedule a celebration of life gathering later.
“What I remember the most is he was a very hardworking person, a very kind person,” Nat LeBlanc said. “That’s the most disappointing thing to not be able to do a wake. He helped so many people, touched so many people’s lives.”