A life lived… Buddy Hyder found love at the grocery store

Published 9:27 am Wednesday, February 22, 2017


Norman “Buddy” Hyder was ambitious, a hard worker, and an achiever. Early in life he decided to have his own business and be his own boss. It took some time to do it, but he did do it.
After working for several years as produce manager at Smithdeal’s Supermarket, he decided to venture out on his own, and started hauling, packaging and supplying tomatoes to area grocery stores.
Hyder, known by many as the “Tomato Man,” owned and operated Hyder Tomato Company, a home-grown venture, which he for a few years operated out of the basement of his home with the help of his wife, Jean, and mother and father, Vance and Ethel Hyder. Later, he built a storage and packing facility on his property in Valley Forge, which became known as “the barn.”
His daughter, Kathy, shared that when Hyder first opened his business, it was in the basement over the store which he ran, for a brief time, and later in the basement of the Valley Forge Volunteer Fire Department. “‘The barn’ was more accommodating and had a loading dock, a place to sort the tomatoes, pack them and wrap them,” said Kathy.
The tomatoes were wrapped in packages of three and six and sold to local grocery stores. “When Giant’s was in business, it was his biggest customer. Dad also sold to several Ingles stores in North Carolina,” Kathy shared. His customers also included small businesses and markets, among them, Brown’s Supermarket and Stateline Market.
Hyder bought his tomatoes from growers in Unicoi County, and during the off-season bought them from growers in Florida. “He knew his tomatoes,” said his wife, Jean.
Hyder met the love of his life, Jean Smithdeal, the daughter of Joe Smithdeal, when he worked at Smithdeal’s. She worked as office manager and did the payroll for her father. “We dated for about three years before we married,” Jean said. They had a son and daughter, Andy and Kathy, and four grandchildren.
Although his business demanded much of his time, Hyder was a big sports fan. He enjoyed watching ballgames on television. Although he enjoyed all sports, his favorite team was the Lady Vols and he was a big fan of Coach Pat Summit. “He never attended a game or met Coach Summit, but he knew all the players by name, and he never missed seeing a televised game,” said Kathy. Among his most prized possessions was a personal autographed photo of Pat Summit obtained for him by friend and former neighbor, the late Dino Senesi.
Hyder also enjoyed trains, and had his own model train, complete with tracks and a village, which he had built in his basement. “After he retired he spent a lot of time building the village,” said Kathy. “It was a very elaborate village, containing replicas of churches, businesses, even a football stadium, as well as people, trees, and other scenery. He also enjoyed shopping for miniature pieces for the display.”
Hyder enjoyed “doting” on his grandchildren. “Andy has twin daughters, Amy and Andrea, who are students at Elizabethton High School. Both run track and sing in the school chorus. When he was able he enjoyed attending their events. He also enjoyed my youngest son, Austin’s youth club games. My oldest son, Justin, was ‘No. 1 grandson,’” said Kathy.
Buddy and Jean attended services at Valley Forge United Methodist Church, where he was faithful and was a member. “He had a stadium seat which he placed on the pew where he sat. He sat in the same pew every service,” Kathy said.
The oldest of four children, Hyder when he was younger looked out for his siblings, especially his only sister and a younger brother. A flower arrangement from his younger brother’s family was a basketball decorated with orange and white roses. The story behind the flower arrangement was that Hyder took his first paycheck and bought his brother, Tony, now deceased, a basketball. His family wanted to buy Buddy his last basketball.
Norman “Buddy” Hyder found more than a job at Smithdeal’s 59 plus years ago, he found the love of his life, a relationship that has lasted a lifetime.
He also found that tomatoes can be made into a career, and through that career made a living for his family, met many people and made a bunch of friends.
Norman “Buddy” Hyder died February 12 at the age of 81.

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