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Published: Friday, 12/5/2008

Austrian fled Nazis, started Toledo Furs with husband

Katharina Tauber, 92, who escaped with her husband from Nazi-controlled Austria and settled in Toledo, where they founded a fur business now owned by their two sons, died Wednesday in the Hospice of Northwest Ohio, South Detroit Avenue. She had congestive heart failure.

Mrs. Tauber's husband, Leo, died in 1992, and she continued to live alone in her West Toledo home.

"She was the feistiest woman in the world," her son George said.

Mrs. Tauber and her husband, a master furrier, began Toledo Furs in 1947 at 1131 Palmwood Ave. She took a support role in the store.

"She could sew and helped my dad," said George, now president of Toledo Furs. "You start from scratch. She was doing a lot of work in the back. My dad could do that also, but he was the salesman up front."

In those early years, "the two of them worked together," said son Michael, secretary-treasurer of the business.

The store moved to its current location, 2123 West Central Ave., in 1968.

She and her husband had other aspirations for their sons, but "we learned the business our whole lives. They didn't want us to feel it was an obligation to become a second generation," Michael said.

"Once she saw that we took serious interest [in the business], they were both very grateful," he said.

Mrs. Tauber was born in Vienna, where she met her husband. They married in 1939 and, for a time, were held in a Nazi camp. They managed to escape and get out of Austria, but "I could never get the story out of them," George said.

"I knew they went to Belgium and France and eventually were sponsored [for entry into the United States] by a very distant uncle who lived in the state of Washington."

Her parents and her husband's parents died in the Holocaust, George said.

The couple landed in New York City and, for about six years, Mr. Tauber worked for a large fur business. Already a skilled designer, he advanced in his craft while there. He wanted to own his own business, and the couple learned of opportunities in Chicago and Toledo, Michael said.

They chose Toledo because they wanted to raise their family in a smaller city.

When grandchildren came along, Mrs. Tauber - or MaMa Kay, as she was called - "was always gracious in watching them and playing with them and being the best grandma she could be," Michael said. "She always taught us it was better to give of yourself than take. She was always giving."

She liked to garden and, George said, "she made sure she kept an immaculate home and yard."

Surviving are her sons, George and Michael Tauber; sister, Hilda Werner; brother, Willi Hacker; five grandchildren, and two great-grandsons.

She was a member of Congregation B'nai Israel.

Services will be at 1 p.m. today in Beth Shalom Cemetery, Oregon. Arrangements are by the Robert H. Wick/Wisniewski Funeral Home.

The family suggests tributes to the Hospice of Northwest Ohio or a charity of the donor's choice.

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