Saturday, May 26, 2018
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Restaurateur ran eateries in Defiance, South Toledo

elden mayer, 1923-2011

Elden Mayer, 87, who with his late wife, Marilyn, ran popular restaurants in Defiance and South Toledo for a combined 41 years, died of complications from Parkinson's disease Monday in the Elizabeth Scott Community, Springfield Township.

He and his wife moved in March, 2006, from their longtime Waterville home to Elizabeth Scott.

From 1965 to 1993, diners found hearty comfort food of the swiss steak, oven-roasted chicken, and mashed-potatoes-and-gravy variety at the couple's Miller's Family Restaurant, 2325 Reynolds Rd. Mrs. Mayer's parents, Grace and Frank Miller, opened the eatery in the late 1950s as Miller's Turnpike Restaurant. Gate 4 of the new Ohio Turnpike was nearby.

Miller's coffee shop opened early for breakfast. Dinner was served in the main dining room -- the New Orleans Room -- and the lounge. The Gold Room was for banquets and wedding receptions.

Mr. Mayer worked the front of the house, greeting customers and making sure everything was just so, and his wife cooked and oversaw three kitchens.

"He enjoyed meeting people and talking to people. He could talk to anybody about anything," his son, Gary, said. "If Dad had to, he could work in the kitchen as well."

For several years, the couples shared duties, with the Mayers running the restaurant when the Millers spent winters in Arizona. The Mayers later took over. Then in the 1980s and beyond, the Mayers left for Arizona by October, returned for Christmas, and were home by Mother's Day, the restaurant's biggest occasion.

"My dad would say [to] call him when it's time to cut the grass," his daughter Nancy said.

Their daughter Karen Mayer was the last general manager, although all the children worked there through the years.

In November, 1952, the couple bought Bud's Hamburger Shop in Defiance and moved to the apartment upstairs with their newborn, Nancy.

Mr. Mayer worked the grill and baked the house's pies, muffins, and cinnamon rolls. His wife was the waitress.

"They had a counter and maybe six or eight booths, just a small-town, hometown place, and everyone knew each other in the day when you walked everywhere," daughter Nancy said. When they left in 1965 for Miller's on Reynolds, they sold Bud's to his brother, Lowell "Pic" Mayer, who later turned it over to his son, Matt.

Mr. Mayer was born Sept. 27, 1923, in Defiance to Clara and A.C. Mayer. He was a graduate of Defiance High School. He was an Army veteran of World War II and served in the South Pacific. A gunshot wound in the abdomen while pinned down by Japanese forces on Okinawa earned him a Purple Heart.

He was a machinist for General Motors in Lansing when his friend Ralph introduced him to a cousin, Marilyn Miller, who studied dietary science at Hillsdale College. The couple married Sept. 29, 1951. Mrs. Mayer died Sept. 16, 2007.

Mr. Mayer collected antique art glass, as his father-in-law had, and was a flower gardener. At his home workbench, he made wood picture frames and refinished antique furniture.

"He always had a project going," his son said.

Surviving are his son, Gary Mayer; daughters, Nancy Fish, Sandi Langhorst, Karen Mayer, and Mary Birsen; brother, Lowell Mayer; sisters, Norma Malaby and Evelyn Manahan; eight grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

Services are to be at 11 a.m. tomorrow in the Peinert Funeral Home, Waterville, where visitation is to be from 3 to 8 p.m. today.

The family suggests tributes to the building fund of Waterville United Methodist Church, where he was a member, or Hospice of Northwest Ohio.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: or 419-724-6182.

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