Northwest Ohio gets a French accent


Merci beau coup, your excellency Francois DeLattre, French Ambassador to the United States. It was a delight to meet you and we so glad you had a taste of Northwest Ohio. Congressman Bob Latta, co-chairman of the French caucus, who has French ancestors and has become friends with the ambassador invited His Excellency to visit the area and see all of the talent and industry here in Northwest Ohio, especially in the 5th District. Accompanying His excellency was Cameron Griffith, the Congressional Liaison for the French Embassy.

First stop was the University of Findlay where Congressman Latta's wife, Marcia Sloan Latta, is Vice President for University Advancement.

Greeting the ambassador was a banner, "Bienvenure."

PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to view.

Lunch was in the Mazza Museum, the largest world collection of original artwork by children’s book illustrators at more than 8,000 works. The French Connection special display by French artists or about France were featured including the original (1st) Curious George and Madeline book illustrations, and Toulouse on the Loose, a story about a turkey in Paris who ended up in DC.

University President Katherine Fell, welcomed everyone.

Everyone was treated like royalty by students of the University's Hospitality Management program and Owens College College culinary program, which presented a white glove service meal. Ooh, la, la! It was magnifique!

Brie cheese, of course, and other delights such as chilled mussels during the social hour, where wait staff carried white doily-lined silver trays. Lunch was Salads Nicoise and fresh baked baguettes bread topped with poached pear and Frangipane tarts for dessert. And, of course Perrier and Evian water was served.

Among the 50 privy lunch guests were Tom and Kate Donnell, who have been entertained at the French Embassy; Sherrie Garner Brumbaugh, president of Garner Trucking; Fifth Third executive Mark Cassin; University of Findlay Trustee Chairman Richard Beckett, DVM; Dr. Bill and Donna Ruse, Lenny Smith of The Dannon Company, Inc., and representatives from Airbus America and GROB Systems.

Special guest was Clyde Shull, WWII veteran from Upper Sandusky who was honored during the public presentation in the Winebrenner Theological Seminary Auditorium, with His Excellency's "Global Economic Issues and Bilateral Relations" address. There were nearly 300 exporters and importers, air bus transportation, civic and business leaders, and students. Shull received a well deserved standing ovation as he accepted a USA flag that was flown over the capital.

Greeting everyone was University of Findlay Student Body President Christina Terry. On stage were the US, French, Ohio, and University flags. Before the public speech, The University Singers sang the USA national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner, and French national anthem, LaMarseillaise.

Next stop was the Toledo Museum of Art where director Brian Kennedy and curators Dick Putney and Claude Fixler wowed the ambassador with a tour of the The Art of the Louvre’s Tuileries Garden. The ambassador joked, "French art is everything that is great art -- everything that is beautiful -- it must be French inspired." He said it meant a great deal for him to see the exhibit here in the USA. To that a toast was made-"Sale"

French exchange students from St. Francis de Sales High School were privy to meeting their French Ambassador, and being able to go home and tell their parents about it.

Among those at the champagne reception were George and Kathy Jones, Sara Jane DeHoff, Dick and Fran Anderson, Harley and Stacey Kripke, Billie and Henry Johnson, Jeannie Rudski, Susan Kruse, Susan and Frazier Reams, Amir Khan, and Joyce and Mike Quinlivan.

The grand finale was dinner at the home of Allan Block, chairman of Block Communications' which owns The Blade, and his gracious and talented wife Susan Allan Block, who among her other accomplishments studied pastry at Ecole Gregoire Ferrandi and cuisine at Ecole Ritz Escoffier. She made the to-die-for dessert--a lemon tart so creamy yet tart it tickled one's taste buds. The Premier did all the rest, per her guidance.

Mrs. Allan Block wore a sleeveless topped full pleated skirted short ivory and peach dress by Marisa Baratelli from Sophia Lustig, and proud to let everyone know as the Block's like to give local people credit and show that Toledo has high quality shops.

Guests arrived past two dozen white roses filling their senses with bouquet, then on into the living room where a towering vase of white tulips said spring is here.

Linen cocktail napkins, monogrammed with a large B were provided with flutes of champagne. It was one of the Block's favorite sparkling, Armand De Brignac Ace of Spades that comes in a unique gold mirrored bottle with a raised metal label. A full bar was offered, but everyone preferred to enjoy the celebratory beverage.

The elegant dining room table was set with French white porcelain by Pillivuyt and hand blown crystal wine goblets on place mats, a gift from Mrs. Block's NYC friend Amanda Dimitrov, who made them from French Jacquard fabric. Dinner napkins were camel-colored linen, from Paula Brown shop, who flowed with the tide of rush orders to make it all happen. Gracing the table were more flowers by David Swezey Florist in low arrangements of white and spring green hydrangeas. Pelligrino sparkling water was served in late 1960's vintage gold plated bamboo motif glasses.

Guests, in addition to His Excellency Ambassador Francois Delattre and Congressman Bob Latta and wife Marcia, were Richard and Clare Hylant, Mark and Merideth Wagoner, Al and Kathy Caperna, Mary Ellen Pisanelli and Lou Tosi, and Ralph Wolfe, of North Baltimore.

Richard Hylant talked to His excellency, which brought a few watery eyes. It was about his grandfather, who fought in WWI in France and his father who fought in WWII and was injured in the Normandy invasion, for which he received a Purple Heart. He also received a Silver Star for saving his captain's life.

The Blocks visited about Allan's father's love of France and how as children, his father, Paul Block, moved Allan and his brother John to France for a year so they could learn the language.

His excellency shared the news that his eldest son was just accepted into UPenn, which is Mr. Block's alma mater.

The ambassador commented how he really appreciated the cultural sensitivity and diplomacy and was impressed by the excellent presentation of the French national anthem before his speech earlier that day.

The meal was phenominal! said Mrs. Latta "Everyone raved about it and Congressmen Latta's staff, who travel all over the country and eat at a lot of dinners, said it was extraordinary."

A c'est dommage, it was time to bid adieu. "Ambassador Delattre was a delight and we're so proud to have been able to host him in our home." said Mrs. Allan Block.

ALL the fancy schmancy to do's for the ambassador, who stresses the importance of education, brings to mind many other wonderful events here in the Toledo area, especially fundraiser's for schools.

THE Ottawa Hills community gathered April 12 at The Valentine for the Green Bear Ball to benefit its schools. Event chairman Beth Rotman said everyone followed the yellow brick road to success for this year's "Emerald City Ball" themed event which raised over $80,000.

Grace Wipfli, '13, played her harp as the more than 400 supporters enjoyed station dining and shopped the silent auction. The night also included an eight item live auction with auctioneers Jay Berschback of WTVG-TV, Channel 13 and Rob Gnepper, the father of seven Ottawa Hills school students and a Reverse Raffle for $5,000 led by Jack McBride.

Dancing to the Velvet Jones band ended the fun evening.

THE 4th Annual Admiral’s Ball and Charity Auction for the Maritime Academy April 12 at One Maritime Plaza reaped $22,000, thanks to the 130 some attendees. The “Chart Their Course for Success With Us” themed event hosted by academy founders David and Renee Marazon with the Academy Foundation was sponsored by The Blade, Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, Dickenson Wright PLLC, Genoa Bank, IBEW, Local 8, and Ed Conn and Saga Schoffner.

HEART & Soul: Final Piece of the Puzzle scholarship benefit for Notre Dame Academy & Junior Academy March 29 in NDA's LaValley Gymnasium netted $155, 233. Kudos to event chairmen Kiran (Hegde) Rai '84 and Cathy Clark assisted by Colleen McGoldrick, past benefit chairman. Thanks go to the endless list of sponsors including top sponsor Chuck and Jackie Sullivan at $10,000.

ST. ROSE Moonlight & Roses fundraising event March 15 at The Pinnacle raised over $80,000 for the school and parish. The 270 attendees enjoyed a buffet dinner, live music donated by Dos Dudes, silent and live auctions, and a diamond necklace raffle by J. Foster Jewelers. A reverse raffle for a $7500 grand prize was won by the last 10 participants who split the pot.

Event chairmen Bruce and Laura Brancheau and Mike and Angie Henry were assisted by 16 some committee members including Beth Westmeyer, Phil Bollin, Joy Studer, and Don Brickner.

WEST SIDE Montessori March Madness dinner auction March 8 was in the Fifth Third Bank lobby of One SeaGate. A sports-themed station dining menu included sliders, beer cheese soup shooters, and more followed by basketball truffles. Basketball themed games had guests competing for NCAA regional final tickets, won by Carla Fitzgerald. A school tuition raffle was won by Dana Pienta.

Alumni Ryan McHugh shared how the school prepared him for success. Over $100,000 was raised for the natural playground in progress and academic enhancements according to event chairmen Roberta Handel and Lynn Cherry.

STEPPIN' Out; The Funky Shoe Event of the Season, finally happened on March 8 after it was postponed Feb. 7 due to snow. The Toledo School for the Arts benefit presented by Rudolph Libbe, GEM Inc. and The Blade was at the Park Inn by Radisson and netted $50,000 for general costs and student scholarships.

Among the 300 plus attendees were Tom and Betsy Brady, Bill and Paula Fall, Bill and Sara Jane DeHoff, Dan and Elaine Johnson, Joel and Davie Epstein, Marty and Mary Chris Skeldon and former TSA parents Jeff and Connie Kufner of North Carolina.