Sam Hyde, a local used-book store owner known for his wit, humility and love of learning, has died. He was 71.
Hyde collapsed Saturday after attending a memorial service for a friend's brother. He slipped into a coma and never regained consciousness. He died late Tuesday night surrounded by family members.
Funeral arrangements were pending late Wednesday but will be at D.O. McComb & Sons' Lake Avenue location.
Family and friends were stunned by how suddenly Hyde passed. The fitness fanatic exercised “three hours a day, six days a week. Religiously. Never missed,” said his son, Jake Hyde.
Sam Hyde, a native of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, regularly participated in at least three classes at Spiece Fitness, including spinning and water aerobics.
Even so, he didn't treat his body like a temple. His employees recalled that he often whiled away Friday afternoons at the bookstore talking to friends and drinking Boxer Beer.
Jake Hyde said numerous family photos show his father with a beer in hand. He preferred dark, German-style brews.
Marilyn Hyde, his wife of almost 39 years, described her late husband as always reading.
“Several hours a day,” she said Wednesday. “He always had a book in his hand – in the car, at the beach.”
His love of learning led the Indiana University graduate to enroll in online college courses recently and listen to books on tape in the car – even when those books were in a foreign language that he didn't speak, she said.
Jake Hyde also recalled his father's love of reading.
“He read to us every night,” he said, referring to his older sister, Vicki, and his late brother, Ben. “He definitely made sure the grandkids had every book you could imagine.”
Tasha Bushnell, a 20-year employee at Hyde Brothers Booksellers who playfully described herself as the regional manager, was working in the store Wednesday. She and other staff members were assembling a window display of Sam Hyde's favorite books.
Among those they couldn't find copies of – because Sam Hyde had recommended them to so many customers – were “The Bears of Blue River” by Charles Major, “Winnie-the-Pooh” by A.A. Milne and “Ender's Game” by Orson Scott Card.
One of those titles has special resonance when Bushnell thinks of her late boss.
“Winnie-the-Pooh – that's who he always reminded me of because he was simple but not stupid,” she said. “And he always thought everyone was doing their best. He was always kind.”
Hyde encouraged his staff to learn customers' names and get to know them personally, Bushnell said. “It's good for you and good for them,” she said, recalling his words.
The bookstore celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2012. Long-term plans for the location at 1428 Wells St. haven't been announced.
Laurie Walls, a bookstore clerk three years, recalled her boss's friendliness.
“He was an amazing storyteller ... and everybody was a friend,” she said. “Nobody was a stranger here.”
The staff posted news of Sam Hyde's death on the store's Facebook page Wednesday. The announcement read, in part: “He truly was the fantastic person you thought he was.”
Within five hours, the posting had prompted almost 200 comments from bereaved customers. Among their messages were these: “May he Rest In Peace & our overcrowded bookshelves be his legacy.” “Fort Wayne has lost a saint who gave the keys to so many wonderful worlds and stories to us all.” “This is devastating. I feel like I lost a member of my family.”
Sam Hyde was preceded in death by his son, Ben, who died in 1996 of leukemia at age 13. He is survived by his wife, Marilyn; daughter, Vicki; son, Jake; four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Jake Hyde summed up his father for everyone who loved him: “He was amazing.”