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Published: Sunday, 11/20/2005

Eatery's co-owner excelled at pastry

Gerald T. Buterbaugh, who greeted customers with coffee and jovial sarcasm every morning at The Budapest, a Monroe Street restaurant he co-owned for two decades, died Wednesday in the Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Perrysburg Township. He was 70.

Mr. Buterbaugh died of lung cancer, family members said.

In 1985, Mr. Buterbaugh, his wife, Alice, and another woman, Margaret Molnar, bought The Budapest from its co-founder, Barbara Szodi, after Ms. Szodi's husband died.

While his wife and Ms. Molnar cooked, the short, strong-as-an-ox former truck driver did "whatever else needed doing" at the traditional Hungarian restaurant, his son Jeff said.

He would sit by the door with a cup of coffee when the restaurant opened at 11 a.m., greeting customers and manning the cash register until the restaurant closed at 9 p.m.

"He loved to [talk] with anybody and everybody," his son said.

Later in the day, he would migrate to the back of the restaurant, performing duties from maintenance work to dish washing.

At first, he stayed out of the kitchen other than to chop and prep the meat - and when he was later saddled with making the restaurant's apple strudel, he hated it.

But eventually the six hours of peeling apples, kneading and stretching dough, then baking it, came to be something at which Mr. Buterbaugh excelled, and even enjoyed.

"He turned out to be a regular Betty Crocker," his son said.

After his wife died in November and Ms. Molnar had a stroke in May, the restaurant closed until it was bought by two of its regulars.

"Now I'm doing all the strudel by myself, and let me tell you, it's a pain," said Rob Johnson, current co-owner.

"Jerry was a hard worker, a familiar face. And yeah, a bit sarcastic."

Mr. Buterbaugh was born and graduated from high school in Brushvalley, Pa., then moved to Toledo in 1952.

"He didn't want to be a coal miner, so he came out here," his son said.

He stayed with his first employer - Commercial Motor Freight Co. - for over three decades, from 1952 to 1985, working first as a dock worker, then later as a truck driver.

He disliked trucking at first, but it grew on him, his son said: "He liked to meet people [on the road]."

He met his wife in 1963, the same year she started working at The Budapest as a cook.

Surviving are his son, Jeff; sisters, Sandra Lucas and Shirley Shirley, and brothers, Wayne Snyder, Ken Buterbaugh, and Edwin Buterbaugh.

Visitation will be after 4 p.m. tomorrow at the Reeb Funeral Home in Sylvania, where services will be at 11 a.m. Tuesday.

The family suggests tributes to the Shrine of St. Jude Thaddeus at the Dominican Fathers, San Francisco.

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