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Published: Sunday, 11/28/2010

Maurice Ataya Ansara, 1942-2010: Restaurateur was last to own family business

Maurice Ataya Ansara, 68, the final owner of his family's North Detroit Avenue restaurant, Joey's Supper Club, died Friday in Toledo Hospital.

The family did not know the cause of death. Mr. Ansara had been hospitalized recently for various health issues.

Born in Lebanon, Mr. Ansara immigrated to the United States with his family at age 14. Just an infant when his mother died, he was reared by his father, four brothers, and three sisters, his daughter Natalie AbouAssali said.

In Toledo, Mr. Ansara began working at Joey's Supper Club, 4635 North Detroit Ave., which was then co-owned by his cousin Alma Cicerella and his brother Joseph Ansara. The restaurant was named for his cousin's grandson.

Mr. Ansara started out washing dishes. He learned food preparation from an elder brother, Michel, who was executive chef at the former Haddad's Bungalow Restaurant.

Soon Mr. Ansara was the supper club's chef, preparing its signature steaks and its renowned slow-roasted duck. Other popular dishes included French onion soup and surf and turf.

"He was in the kitchen from early in the morning until late at night," his daughter said. "He was able to throw 25 steaks on a grill and know just by looking at a steak what its temperature was."

In 1969, he married Maria Bitar, who became the restaurant's hostess and manager. They lived for years on Saddlewood Drive in Toledo before moving to Crystal Lake Drive in Holland.

Joseph and Maurice left Joey's and their Toledo home in 1976 to buy a restaurant in Phoenix. The brothers returned in 1981 to buy the supper club from their cousin.

Maurice acquired sole ownership of the restaurant in the late 1980s as Joseph moved to Arizona permanently. He continued to prepare customers' food until the restaurant's 1996 closing and eventual sale.

Mr. Ansara's work ethic set a great example for his children and grandchilden, his daughter said.

"This man came over to this country with not a penny in his pocket and worked his way up," she said. "We had a lot of regular customers who loved the restaurant very much."

Surviving are his wife, Maria Ansara; daughters, Natalie AbouAssali, Veronica Elchert, and Leslie McArthur; sister, Yvette Ansara, and nine grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 2 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sunday in the Ansberg-West Funeral Home. The funeral service will begin at 11 a.m. Monday at St. George Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral on Woodley Road.

The family suggests tributes to St. George Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral.

Contact JC Reindl at:

jreindl@theblade.com

or 419-724-6065.



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