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Published: Friday, 12/10/2004

Caterer served up Polish specialties for weddings and wakes

Raymond T. Rojek, 87, who with his wife, Fran, fed area residents at their rites of passage - weddings, christenings, wakes - through their Lagrange Street catering business, died Wednesday in the Ohio Veterans Home, Sandusky, from complications of Alzheimer's disease.

He lived at the veterans home for four years.

He and his wife operated Rojek's Catering, 2819 Lagrange, for 35 years. It was one of the city's oldest catering businesses when they retired in 1995.

An affair catered by the Rojeks might include roast beef and roasted chicken, but it often featured such Polish specialties as kielbasa, sweet and sour cabbage, pierogi, maybe even czarnina - duck's blood soup - and coffee cake.

"But the order doesn't have to be Polish," Mr. Rojek told The Blade in 1983. That year, the Rojek catering staff served a complete wedding meal for 500 at Marblehead, Ohio.

From their building on Lagrange, the Rojek's sold carryout meals and box lunches, quarts of duck soup, and trays of their specialties for customers to pick up.

Mrs. Rojek organized the food preparation and went to set up the banquet halls with the staff, which at one time numbered seven full-time workers and 25 on call for big events. Mr. Rojek ran the front of the store and greeted customers.

"My father just loved people," his son, Ray, said. "He was a salesman. He was a charmer, too. He was very good at it. I just think that's what he loved to do."

The couple in the 1970s bought the DC Ranch on State Rt. 25 in Perrysburg Township, which they used for wedding receptions and polka parties. They sold the building in 1983.

The couple, after World War II, owned a small market in East Toledo. They bought the former Kalinowski Market on Lagrange. At Easter and Christmas, they baked hams, roasted turkeys, and sold homemade Polish coffee cakes and kielbasa. Then a woman asked Mrs. Rojek to cater a wedding.

"That's how it started," son Ray said.

Mr. Rojek grew up on Central Avenue near Lagrange. He was a graduate of Woodward High School and worked for Kroger.

He became an Army corporal during World War II and took part in the battle at Remagen Bridge in Germany, for which he received the Bronze Star. He was a member of the Buddy Frankowski VFW Post and the St. Lawrence Council, Knights of Columbus.

Mr. Rojek and his wife had a winter home in Fort Myers, Fla., for nearly 25 years. The couple enjoyed traveling the world.

"My father loved music and big bands and dancing," his son said. "He was always happy, and he was very bubbly."

Surviving are his wife, Frances, whom he married June 5, 1941; son, Ray Rojek; daughters, Linda Fitzpatrick and Mary Hoffman; 10 grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.

The body will be in the Thomas I. Wisniewski Mortuary after 2 p.m. Sunday, with a Scripture service at 7 p.m. Sunday in the mortuary. Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Monday in St. Joseph Church, Sylvania, of which he was a member.

The family suggests tributes to the Alzheimer's Association and the Ohio Veterans Home Memorial Fund, Sandusky.



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