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Published: Thursday, 7/3/2014 - Updated: 1 year ago

Ralph J. Behrendt; 1951-2014: Chocolate maker was a glass artist

 Behrendt Behrendt
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Ralph J. Behrendt, who brought a business background to the artistic and gustatory pursuits for which he was known, died Sunday at his residence in Toledo’s UpTown neighborhood. He was 63.

He had a heart attack, his wife said.

Mr. Behrendt and his wife started Flying Rhino Coffee & Chocolate more than eight years ago in the UpTown building that housed their Gallery B, which had gallery space, his glass furnace and studio, and space for artists to rent. On New Year’‍s Eve, 2005, family and friends gathered, and each blew a glass paperweight. At the stroke of 2006, he turned off the glass furnace

He was known for his glass nautilus shells, for his lamps, for creating “big floppy bowls of bright colors,” said his wife, a glass-bead artist. But the couple wearied of the travel, of balancing increased costs and limited returns.

“We’ve witnessed too many art shows where the kettle corn guy had all the business,” Mr. Behrendt wrote on the Flying Rhino Web site.

The couple moved from collectibles to consumables. They bought a coffee roaster. Mr. Behrendt’‍s forte became chocolate, another substance that calls for precise heating and cooling.

“It was an extension of the glass, just not at the same temperatures,” his wife said. The couple made truffles and turtles and added English toffee.

Though it had several homes, Gallery B was on North Huron Street the longest, in a massive warehouse with much space for other artists.

“It was an artists’‍ community,” his wife said. “It was wonderful, and he built it.”

The building was in the way of a new stadium for the Toledo Mud Hens, and the gallery moved in 2000.

Mr. Behrendt was born Jan. 16, 1951, to Evelyn and Ralph A. Behrendt and was a graduate of St. Francis de Sales High School.

He received a bachelor’‍s degree in business administration from the University of Toledo and was employed at Champion Spark Plug. A victim of that firm’s cutbacks in the 1980s, Mr. Behrendt tried to sell insurance.

“That was a pitiful mistake,” he told The Blade in 2001. But his interest in photography led to a picture-framing business. Those contacts led him to selling art glass and then to making art glass.

Surviving is his wife, Gini Porritt Behrendt. They married Jan. 10, 2004, but were a couple for 16 years, his wife said.

A celebration of life service is to be at 2 p.m. Sunday in the W.K. Sujkowski & Son Funeral Home, where visitation will begin at 1:30 p.m. Immediately after the service, a memorial potluck will take place at the Toledo Farmers’ Market, where the Behrendts sold their wares on Saturdays. Mrs. Behrendt asks those attending to bring a dish to pass.

The family suggests tributes to the Grand Haven Hospice in Grand Haven, Mich.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.

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