Thursday, December 06, 2001
Ted Gregory practiced secret generosity
Funeral marked builder of a ribs kingdom
By Ben L. Kaufman
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Ted Gregory was buried Wednesday with a cross and a cigar in his hands.
Both were central to his identity.
Mr. Gregory, 78, the ribs and riverside restaurateur, died Sunday of complications from diabetes.
The Rev. William Cassis began telling his favorite Ted Gregory stories at the overflowing funeral Wednesday, at Holy Trinity-St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Finneytown.
It was about 10 years ago, the pastor recalled, during his first Christmas at the Winton Road congregation when Father Cassis initially took his measure of this layman.
Mr. Gregory walked into the priest's office, handed him a contribution, and said, Father, take care of those who are less fortunate than you and I.
That moment in a life of sheer, unadulterated generosity created the St. Nicholas Fund, Father Cassis said, and Mr. Gregory kept topping it off, while eschewing any acclaim.
Until Wednesday, Father Cassis kept that confidence.
No one ever knew, but it spoke of his compassion he said, and it typified all of the unseen and unrecognized things he did for this church and this community.
Then there was the Gregory family baptism, when Father Cassis found him alone in the sanctuary.
I'm just here to talk to the man upstairs, Mr. Gregory explained.
Mr. Gregory was a famously hospitable host, who welcomed everyone to his table and knew indeed that he was God's friend as well, the priest said.
The omnipresent cigar? Well, that was part of his mythic image, jutting forward even when he didn't wear his Ribs King crown.
Wednesday, relatives, friends and employees spilled from the 500-seat sanctuary, choir loft, and foyer onto the circular drive.
We're friends and employees, said Mark Stenson, of College Hill, kitchen manager at the Montgomery Inn, which the Gregory family founded. He said Mr. Gregory was a great boss, whose favorite foods were grilled halibut and cheeseburgers, rare with a big slice of onion.
Not ribs? Oh no, you're not going to get me to say that, Mr. Stenson said with a laugh. He loved his ribs.
Bill Brothers, a Montgomery Inn cook from Dillsboro, Ind., said he has commuted to work for the Gregorys for 18 years because "they're just super people.
It is said that when it comes to dreams of life, Greeks dream it best, said Father Cassis.
His was the quintessential Greek-American experience. He made us all proud to be Greek-Americans. Ted Gregory was the American dream.
His first lunch at another of his restaurants, the Boathouse, offered an inkling of Mr. Gregory's hospitality, Father Cassis said.
Mr. Gregory was welcoming the priest when he stopped to ask some high school youths, Did you get enough to eat?
Silly question. Mr. Gregory told a waiter to bring more of whatever they wanted until the table overflowed.
Father Cassis praised Matula Gregory as her husband's friend, helpmate and companion. Matula was his rudder on the adventure of life. She was his compass.
The liturgy included a message from Bishop Nicholas of Detroit, where Ontario-born Ted Gregory grew up the son of poor immigrants. The bishop urged Mr. Gregory's survivors to share his joy for the life of Ted, a joyful man who was comfortable equally with princes and paupers.
After the liturgy, worshipers spent more than 30 minutes saying farewells at his casket. Then earth and a mixture of wine and oil were placed on Mr. Gregory's chest, the family icon of the Virgin removed, and the casket closed.
Seven motorcycles escorted the funeral cortege to Rest Haven Cemetery in Evendale.
He is survived by his wife, Matula Gregory of downtown Cincinnati; two sons, Tom and Dean Gregory; two daughters, Vickie Siegel and Terry Andrews,and eight grandchildren.
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