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Published: 7/31/2009

Restaurant owner also was builder and inventor

Gerald T. Rabideau, 77, an inventor, builder, and businessman who owned a West Toledo restaurant, died Monday in an accident at the Goodwill Auto Auction-I-75 Industrial Park on Lagrange Street.

His body was found pinned between the door of a semi-tractor and trailer. Police believe he was moving a trailer close to two others.

The last 30 years, he ran United Builders and Leasing, which rented out construction trailers and towed them to construction sites, his wife, Peggy, said. He ran the business from his West Toledo home, but parked the trailers at the industrial park.

He also was a contractor on historic restoration projects. "He had a lot of energy, and he was a very, very strong man. He could work 14-hour days," his wife said. "He was just very good at imagining how a building could go together and putting it together."

His parents, Mildred and William Lynn Rabideau, opened Lynn's Restaurant on Lewis Avenue in 1948, and he started working there not long after. He continued through graduation from Central Catholic High School and the University of Toledo.

He and his brother Jack oversaw several expansions. By the time Mr. Rabideau sold the once-small eatery in 1977, it seated 1,100.

Many of Lynn's home-style dishes were based his mother's recipes. Most of the cooks were women who were homemakers in the neighborhood.

"It was a place where a lot of people had jobs and supported a lot of families for a long time," his daughter, Maggie Diehl, said. "It was a place people could go and celebrate family events."

Lynn's was popular with business executives, "and it was nothing to see the local [television news] anchors come in," his daughter said.

He oversaw catering, too.

"He once said, 'It's like I'm at everybody's party,' and if you knew him, he talked your arm off," his wife said. "He saw the weddings and the First Communions and the bar mitzvahs, and he was welcoming. I think when he retired from the restaurant business, he missed the people."

After selling Lynn's, he opened Lynn's Mount Vernon, a restaurant on Monroe Street at Nantucket Drive, but sold it after a year.

He was a former president of the Toledo and Northwestern Ohio Restaurant Association, as his mother had been, and he was a trustee of the Ohio State Restaurant Association.

In the late 1950s, he worked with a team researching how to cook food by microwave. He presented findings at Michigan State University. In 1960, his group came up with a program called "Electro-Mechanical Restaurant of the Future" and made a presentation at a restaurant exposition in Columbus.

He had several patents for his pontoon boat designs. The family took a raft-like pontoon boat he built on a 1,000-mile trip over waterways in northern Michigan. The family also spent two weeks cruising the Trent-Severn Waterway through Ontario, from Georgian Bay to Lake Ontario.

"He had a lot of interests and a lot of curiosity," his wife said.

Surviving are his wife, Margaret Rabideau, whom he married Nov. 27, 1954; daughters, Mary Pagels, Margaret Diehl, Michelle Partridge, and Marsha Drees; sons, Gregory and Grant Rabideau; brothers, Jack and Bob Rabideau, and nine grandchildren.

The body will be in the Urbanski Funeral Home, Secor Road, after 2 p.m. today, with a recitation of the Rosary at 4 p.m. in the mortuary. Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. at St. Catherine of Siena Church, where he was a member.

The family suggests tributes to the American Heart Association or the St. Catherine School Foundation.



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