Monday, December 03, 2001

Staff offers praise for Gregory

He always was kind to everyone

By Cindy Kranz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MONTGOMERY — A subdued staff placed a black ribbon on a portrait of Ted Gregory at the original Montgomery Inn on Sunday, but they continued doing what he did best — roll out the ribs and the red carpet for customers.

        News of Mr. Gregory's death Sunday morning shook his employees, many of whom have worked here for decades.

        Manager Tim Wood has worked at the Montgomery Road location for 21 years.

        “I was very saddened, obviously, but I was kind of relieved his pain is gone. Everybody loved that man so much. Everybody's reaction is the same — saddened. The respect people had for him was amazing.

        “He always had something nice to say and was quick with a joke,” Mr. Wood said. “He always brightened your day when he was here. That's why I'm still here 21 years later. He appreciated his employees like no one else.”

        One of Mr. Wood's favorite stories about Mr. Gregory happened about 10 years ago when he handed out envelopes to employees at Christmas, telling them, “Here's a little something for your wallet.” When eager employees opened the envelope, they found a picture of him. “It cracked everybody up. I still have it in my cigar box at home.”

        Until his recent illness, Mr. Gregory and his trademark cigar were daily fixtures at the restaurant, where photographs hang of him with celebrities: his friends Bob and Dolores Hope, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, Don Rickles, Buddy Hackett and more.

        “He'd visit and have lunch and make sure we were doing what we're supposed to do,” said Rick Knapp, general manager. “He was very outgoing, very friendly. Never knew a stranger, and extremely giving. I've never met anyone more generous in my life.”

        Gail James, a hostess who has worked there 20 years, remembered how Mr. Gregory would always ask about her children, now 30 and 26.

        “My children loved him. He always made you feel like you were one of his best friends in the world. He treated you like you were part of the family.”

        In the kitchen, night shift kitchen manager Mark Stinson pulled a slab of ribs from the oven and nestled it on a plate. He's worked there 10 years and appreciated Mr. Gregory's upbeat attitude.

        “There was nothing Ted wouldn't do for his employees. The number of employees he's hired around the city of Cincinnati is astonishing. The opportunities he provided here, the sky is the limit, from dishwasher on up. When I was first here, I was just a mere fry cook. Ted gave me the opportunity to spearhead the mother ship. I'm proud to produce his product.”

        Michelle Hacker has worked there for 4 1/2 years as hostess and clerk in the carry-out and gift shop. “He always told me jokes whenever he saw me. I think that was his way of communicating with me.”

        Like other employees, she was impressed by his generosity. She recalled seeing him gather toys and other items for needy families.

        “The whole entire family is just wonderful,” she said. “That's why I've been here so long. They take care of everybody.”

        Along with Montgomery Inn gift baskets, shirts and other items, the gift shop sells Ted Gregory dolls outfitted with a red crown that proclaims, “Ribs King” and a cigar.

        Do they sell many?

        “We will now,” Ms. Hacker said.


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