The chairman and CEO of the Bashas' family-owned grocery store chain in Arizona is dead at age 75. Family members say Eddie Basha died Tuesday.
A cause of death wasn't immediately released, but Basha's family members say he had been in failing health for some time.
Basha's grandfather and father opened the first of what would become the family-owned supermarket chain in 1932. Eddie took over the business at age 31 when his dad died in 1968.
"He will go down in Arizona history as one of our state's greatest and most endearing leaders," Wes Gullett, partner at FirstStrategic in Phoenix and a longtime friend of Basha told AZCentral.com, "he will be remembered as the man with the biggest heart in Arizona. I know he inspired me in good times and during struggles, and we will miss him every single day."
"He had a heart as big as the state," Chandler Mayor Jay Tibshraeny said Tuesday. "He did more good for more people than anybody I've ever known, and he continued to give and give and give. That is his legacy: somebody who just wanted to help all of his fellow man," Tibshraeny said. There wasn't a cause that he wouldn't help.
Basha served on the Arizona Board of Regents and unsuccessfully ran for Arizona governor in 1994. The scope of the company now includes four distinct formats: Bashas', Bashas' Diné, AJ's Fine Foods and Food City.
The company has more than 130 stores serving every county in Arizona, as well as Needles, CA, and Crownpoint, NM.
It is the only family-owned supermarket chain in Arizona and the seventh-largest employer in the state. Since the company's inception, Bashas' has given back more than $100 million to the communities it serves.
The Basha family issued this statement to its members Tuesday night:
"It's with the heaviest of hearts that my family and I share news we'd hoped never to have to
share: Eddie passed away today.
"We want to share with you just how much Eddie loved Bashas', its members and its customers. From our earliest childhood, he always reinforced to us the importance of our members and giving back to our community. Some of his fondest times were being with Bashas' members and customers, whether at the office, the Distribution Center or in the stores.
"To us, and to many of you, Eddie was always larger than life, and he gave his heart and soul to Bashas' Family of Stores. Ironically, Eddie never saw himself that way. He considered himself to be a Bashas' member, no different than any other, and he considered all Bashas' members to be a part of his family.
"During Eddie's lifetime he faced many challenges, the last few years being among the most challenging. But his desire to serve the people of the state he loved so well, and to take care of the members that he cared for so much, always gave him strength in the face of adversity.
"It is our collective strength that has seen us through difficult days. This strength will continue to move us forward, even though we have suffered such a tragic loss. As a family, we want to thank you for your devotion, thoughts and prayers."
Gov. Jan Brewer worked with Basha over the years and commented on the community's loss:
"Eddie Basha showed all that could – and still can – be accomplished in Arizona with hard work, dedication to community and love of family. That may be his most lasting legacy, and it's one for which his family can be proud."
Eddie Basha is survived by his wife and six sons. Funeral plans weren't immediately released.
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