Shelby Modell, matriarch of the longtime family-owned Modell’s Sporting Goods chain and a noted philanthropist, passed away at the age of 98.

In 1949, she married William Modell, who had effectively been running Modell’s since 1963, working alongside his father, Henry. He was chairman from 1985 until his death in 2008. The couple were married for 59 years.

Shelby Modell was the co-founder of the National Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America and the founder of its Long Island chapter. She started the foundation after her son Michael was diagnosed with the illness in his teens and died in 2001. She was also a founding member of the American Digestive Disease Society; a founder of the Jeffrey Modell Foundation for immunological research; a founder of the Gilda Radner Foundation, “Gilda’s Club;” and founder of Hewlett House, a breast cancer resource center.

She also was politically active. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed her to the negotiating committee of the Panama Canal Treaty. In 1987, Gov. Mario Cuomo appointed her to the New York State Council of the Arts.

Mitchell Modell, the former CEO of Modell’s and her surviving son, said, “She was a force of nature. Her whole life was dedicated to helping people, starting with the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America.”