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Published: Monday, 2/27/2006

Oregon caterer owned popular banquet facility

Helen Brower, 91, a longtime owner and operator of the Oregon Banquet Room and Catering Service, who was well-known for her piano playing at a number of Toledo and Oregon festivities, died Thursday at St. Petersburg General Hospital, in St. Petersburg, Fla., from complications of a stroke.

Mrs. Brower, who operated the Oregon banquet hall for 35 years, was well-known in the Toledo area for hosting and catering to family, wedding, and anniversary parties. She permanently moved to Florida after retiring and closing her family-run banquet hall in 1998.

"She was very well-known in Oregon. She had a jolly and outgoing personality and she was always determined to finish everything she started," said Karen Benjey, her daughter.

She said her mother especially enjoyed performing and played piano at a number of area parties and clubs, including the Ritz and Bayshore Supper Clubs.

She grew up in a family of musicians and she was well-known in the Oregon community not only for her music, but also for her church and volunteer work, said Jim Brower, her son. "She was very involved on the music scene from her youth and she played in a number of bands and at parties in the area," he said.

Born Helen Sanks in the former Oregon Township, she attended public schools and graduated from Clay High School in 1933. She married her high school sweetheart, Ernest Brower, on Jan. 1, 1935, and they settled in Oregon. Her husband died in 1992.

A former member and past president of the Toledo chapter of the Food Service Executives Association, Mrs. Brower opened her banquet hall and catering service in Oregon in 1963.

She enjoyed the banquet hall as the family business because it suited her personality, her son recalled. "She really loved it. She played piano and was in very many people's parties that she hosted," he said. "On some weekends she played for more than five wedding parties."

A longtime member of First St. Mark's Lutheran Church, she was very involved in the church's activities, where she was the founder and director of the New Horizon Choir.

An avid writer and painter, Mrs. Brower kept a busy schedule even in her retirement, her son said. She traveled across the United States, Europe, Hawaii, and to Israel. But most of all, she kept herself busy by visiting nursing homes where she would perform, her son recalled.

"She was so good at keeping people busy," he said.

Surviving are her daughter, Karen Benjey; son Jim; three grandchildren, and a great-grandson.

Visitation will be from 4 to 8 p.m. tomorrow and from 2 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday in the Hoeflinger-Bolander Funeral Home. Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday in First St. Mark's Lutheran Church.

The family suggests tributes in her memory to the church.

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