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Published: Monday, 10/22/2007

On The Town: Fund-raising folks

Wanna-be cowboys and girls gathered to lasso cancer and put it out to pasture. The American Cancer Society's Cattle Baron's Ball, "Dustin' Off the Denim," was Saturday night at the Lucas County Recreation Center. Yellow mums on red checked-covered tables, saddles, fence posts, and bales of hay set the scene along with western storefronts and silhouettes of Wyatt Earp, Kitty Wells, and Roy Rogers.

Guests in 10-gallon hats, plaid shirts, red bandannas, boots, jeans, and denim skirts strolled the runway of fun. There were midway games, including the cow-pie toss, the roller bowler lanes, lassoing, a quick-draw game, and more.

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<img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/graphics/icons/photo.gif><font color=red><b> ON THE TOWN: </font color=red></b> <a href=" /apps/pbcs.dll/gallery?Avis=TO&Dato=20071022&Kategori=COLUMNIST10&Lopenr=1022002&Ref=PH" target="_blank "><b>Fund-raising folks</b></a> photo gallery.
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<br> <img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/graphics/icons/photo.gif><font color=red><b> ON THE TOWN: </font color=red></b> <a href=" /apps/pbcs.dll/gallery?Avis=TO&Dato=20071022&Kategori=COLUMNIST10&Lopenr=1022002&Ref=PH" target="_blank "><b>Fund-raising folks</b></a> photo gallery. <br>
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That's where cowhands like John Pittner, John and Terri Payak, and others spent their time. Unfortunately, the mechanical bull was delayed in Cleveland and never made it in time for guests to have at it. Meanwhile, a cowboy on stilts had a bird's eye view of what everyone was up to, including casino games for chances to win raffle prizes.

There was the Ryan Serber Memorial Tribute Pond with candles in honor and in memory of loved ones with cancer.

Helping out were several committee members, including Cathy Nelson and Tom Elliott.

There was plenty of shopping at the live and silent auctions. At the saloon, a Boot Rita with a keepsake glass was the speciality drink. A chuckwagon provided by the Maumee Valley Chefs Association proved to be a great place for victuals, including spicy black bean chili, corn nuggets, pulled pork, and apple apricot empanadas. The MVCA has created a cookbook of 100 recipes of southwestern cuisine served at other Cattle Baron's Balls.

Emcee Laura Emerson of WUPW-TV, Channel 36, kept the evening on a journey, with Cass Avenue Ramblers, Rodney Parker and the Liberty Beach Band, and Arizona Sun keeping the steps peppy with tunes. Michelle Poe, who was born in Toledo, wooed the men as she sang sultry country tunes. Ms. Poe, who is touring with Hank Williams, Jr., has a CD, "Just One of the Boys."

On the ranch were Fran and Dick Anderson, Kenny and Deborah Knight, Paul and Sue Sieben, Michelle and Mark Reiter, Sue and Rob Robinson, Shannon and John Haeflinger, and Joyce Kosmatka.

Chairmen Robert Thompson, assisted by co-chairman Dan McHugh, estimates the net to be about $75,000, but the totals are not tallied yet.

The 28-member Toledo Chapter of Jack and Jill of America Inc. celebrated its 55th anniversary Saturday with a Diamonds and Pearls Legends Gospel Brunch at Brandywine Country Club. The local chapter, started 1952, is an affiliate of Jack and Jill of America, Inc., founded in 1938 by African-American mothers to promote social and cultural experiences for their children. The guesstimated net of $7,000 supports the foundation, said Rhonda Sewell, event chairman.

Mistress of ceremonies Kristian Brown of WTVG-TV, Channel 13, welcomed everyone. Honored were local women of color who are pioneers in their fields.

Pearl Legend honorees included Judi Ellis, a retired vice president of National City Bank and co-founder of the Kevin Ellis Foundation; Kathy Gregory, instructional planning consultant for Toledo Public Schools; Barbie Harrison, executive director/CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Ohio, Inc.; WilliAnn Moore, president of the Toledo Chapter of the NAACP, and Edna Robertston, retired TPS principal.

Diamond Legends included, Philana Marie Boles, novelist; Sherita Evans, HIV-risk reduction specialist for Planned Parenthood of Greater Toledo; Diana Patton, founder of holistic health business Equilibria Inc.; Lisa McDuffie, executive director of the YWCA of Greater Toledo, and Celine Kabwasa-Woods, an adoption specialist for Lucas County Children Services

Quiche, fruit medley, peach muffins, and other brunch fare was served as the some 250 guests enjoyed the spiritual gospel sounds of violinist Robin Bacon, the Positive Force Christian School of Dance, pianist Johnnie Love, Jack and Jill member and vocalist Marlene Harris-Taylor, and opera singer and former Toledoan Alberta Jean Reed, now of Ypsilanti, Mich.

Outgoing president Cynthia Tetterton Williams, who was recently appointed the midwestern regional legislative liaison, was honored for her service to the community and the chapter. Then incoming president Asha Barnes took charge.

Among the guests were former Toledo Mayor Jack Ford and his wife, Cynthia, Julia Holt, Patricia Hogue, Pastor Toni Banks, Marie Latham-Bush, Hope Mitchell, Deborah Carlisle, Richard and Yolanda Jackson, Mark Barnes, Lt. Col. Oran Williams, Sr., Lettie Bedford, Marcia Hopkins, Charles and Vera Rice, and Brunetta O'Neal and Fletcher Word.

The Toledo Women's Club, which started in 1892, presented its second annual Fall Benefit Friday night at Diva Restaurant.

The TWC is an association devoted to the social and educational interests of women and the club supports the community by contributing to local charities and other causes.

Most recently, the Sally Yeager Scholarship fund for young women working towards an accounting or business degree, named in honor of the late member who was the club's longtime accountant, presented a scholarship to Jennifer Jakubowski, a senior at Lourdes College.

The short and sweet evening was upstairs in a private room that overlooked the street below. Guests sipped wines and nibbled delectable hors d'oeuvres, including pates and imported cheeses.

A silent auction offered all kinds of gifts that many used as a head start on holiday shopping, including gift certificates, books, and more.

A portion of the roughly $2,500 net will benefit the local Army and Air National Guard family members who have loved ones in Iraq.

Among the sponsors were Merrill Lynch, Accessible Renovations, Honey I'm Home, and Diva Restaurant. Assisting with the evening was Brent Lottman of Be Creative. Patrick Andrews made a donation in honor of the late Lynda Goodremont, who helped empower women.

Seen were JoAnne Pheils, Grace and Mel Potts, Milo and Chrissie Danzeisen, MaeJo Ritchie, Otto and Margie Heinzeroth, Lois and Joe Stack, and Jane Evans, president. Event chairman was Lisa Rozanski, there with hubby, Scott.

Diapers! Mountains of them.

They were all at the Red Wagon Layette Shower presented by the Christ Child Society Oct. 9 at Sylvania Country Club.

More than 100 ladies gathered for the luncheon, all with packages of diapers in tow for the CCS layettes to infants in need. The fun day included a raffle of 30 items by Eugenia Vogel and Judy Telb. It was an extra-special day for Linda Pawlecki, who was honored with the Red Wagon Award for outstanding service to the community. Jan Purinton and Nancy Smythe were luncheon chairmen, and Anne Malone is the president.

It was the last hurrah Saturday night for Fifi's Restaurant, and the place was packed with fans and friends. It's the end of an era of gourmet dining in an elegant, intimate, and classy setting. Fifi Berry, owner, sold her establishment of 27 years to Patrick Joyce, currently the chef at Stone Oak Country Club. Mr. Joyce gave his notice this last week.

Ms. Berry said truckloads of people have been coming in since word got around about the sale earlier this week.

"I'm overwhelmed," she said. "But I couldn't help but wonder where all these people were when I needed them," she said.

When asked what she'll do now, she said with a laugh, "I'll sleep for two months." Then, on a more serious note: "Really, I haven't decided - maybe some restaurant consulting work. There's so much I could pass along to aspiring restaurateurs about the business of owning a restaurant."

But ah, the memories. Birthdays, anniversaries, and other special occasions. And if the walls could talk.

Many business deals were made over a glass of cognac and a gourmet dinner. Mmm. boeuf au fromage, duck, clam chowder, cognac salad dressing, pate, sorbet, Bananas Foster, tableside, and at holiday time, Tom and Jerry's, along with top-notch liquors, fine wines, and champagnes.

Every attention to detail: red roses, candlelit tables centered with a single-stemmed red rose, crisp white linens, comfy chairs, a fireplace, and soft music. Remember the signature logo, a long-stemmed red rose with a kiss?

But it was Ms. Berry and her daughter Kelley, who graciously greeted guests, who made the difference.

Ms. Berry has put many a staffer through college, including Sammy Leeviroj, who after bachelor's and master's degrees, still comes back to help out.

Longtime staffers were all there, including Ahmad Vaez, 22 years; Frank Underwood, 19 years, and Sherry Operacz, 17 years, who joked, "After tonight, I quit!"

Matthew Westin, who was not able to be there, wished Ms. Berry well. Mr. Westin, who owns the Mustard Seed, got his start at Fifi's, as did several of his staffers, including Mary Sawers, Suzie Kasap, Sherris Schwind, and others.

Stopping by for one last time were several folks, including Lucy Anton, a longtime friend who was there when Fifi's opened, and so she had to be there when the place closed. Mrs. Anton, who dined there Friday night with Phyllis and Jerry Deaton, said the place was packed then too, and it was five people deep at the bar.

John Mast, who played the grand piano on Fifi's first day, then off and on for the last 27 years, was there both nights too. He played Ms. Berry's favorite song, "Over the Rainbow."

As the night neared its end, Fifi's ran out of a few menu items but no one minded, as it was not the norm for the establishment. But they didn't run out of alcohol, since they stocked up well that day.

Seen Saturday night were John Mancy and Lee English, Marina and Bruce Lung, Jeff and Corinne Mann, Michael Marsh, Jeff Pinkerton, Marianne Ballas and Jim Maciejko, Traci and Tom Schwann, Art and Kris Kieffer, Tom Tank, Susan and Panos Doukides, Mike Bell and Karen Jarosz, Denise and Terry Benton, Ray Henderson and his family, and many, many others, including Richard Isaac and Doug Gibbs. Sena Mourad helped out by busing tables. Jan and Bob Weaver and Roberta and Gary Shaver, who have autographed menus from the old Ricardo's, got a Fifi's menu and had it signed by Ms. Berry.

She said, "I've had a 27-year run on Airport Highway, and Fantasia had 25 years! Thanks to all the wonderful guests over the years who were kind and loving to me, my daughter, and the staff. Au revoir!"

Mrs. Berry has been the recipient of numerous awards over the years, including the Lifetime Achievement Award and the Restaurateur of the Year from the Northwest Ohio Restaurant Association.

According to Ms. Berry, Gracie Smith was the first female president of the restaurant association. In 1990, Ms. Berry was the last female president.

The restaurant, which opened in 1980, has held a 3-star Mobil dining guide rating for the last 17 years. The new owner has slated the first part of December for the opening of Patrick's.

In the meantime, Ms. Berry was there yesterday, packing her belongings. The famous Fifi painting above the bar will be put in storage until she decides what to do with it.

Last night she attended the NWORA reverse raffle, where she received special recognition for her years in the restaurant industry.

Blade retiree Tom Gearhart contributed to this report.



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