Remembering Gene Stopha

EUGENE E. “Gene” “Sonny” STOPHA , (84) a long time resident of Bolivar, NY, died January 31, 2020, at home in Hilton Head, SC, with his wife Shirley by his side. Gene’s children also survive him, Jane Stopha, Mark Stopha (wife Sara Hannan), Paula McClure (husband Glenn), Joel Stopha, Julie Auth (husband Sean), Maryann Reissig (husband John), two stepdaughters, Barbara Williams and Nancy Morehead, ten grandchildren, his brother, Ted Stopha, his sister, Barbara Stopha, and many nieces, nephews and countless friends including his “adopted” fifth daughter, Tama, his “adopted” German son, Stefan, the WNY classic car community, and in his AA family. A memorial of Christian burial will occur in Bolivar, NY at a date to be determined by Gene’s family, we will update here when that date has been set.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Genesee Valley Rotary Camp

About our Dad

Gene Stopha was born on September 2, 1935 at Our Lady of Victory Hospital in Lackawanna, NY. He grew up in Bayview, near Buffalo. As a teenager, Gene worked in a bakery in Hamburg, NY. He joined the Army soon after his high school graduation in 1953. Gene learned to cook during his service in Korea and in Italy.

After his military service, Gene worked at a country club in Buffalo where he met a telephone company office manager and Allegany native named Jeanne Eaton. They were married in 1960 and moved to Allegany where Gene started working for Patsy Piccioli at Piccioli’s Restaurant in Olean..

In the mid 1960’s the Stopha family moved to Arcade, NY and opened the Crystal Inn. This was one of the region’s largest fine dining restaurants. In the late 1960’s the Stopha family moved to Bolivar and briefly Gene ran a butcher shop. Gene went back to work for Patsy until Piccioli’s Restaurant was sold to Denis Goodamote. It became the Heritage Inn and both Gene and his wife Jeanne worked there. During this period, Gene also worked for the dining service at Alfred University.

In the early 70’s, Gene opened the Olean House with Neil Goodemote. The Olean House offered a wide range of foods that included a historic, fine dining location named “Hoop’s Retreat,” an Italian restaurant named “Mama’s Parlour”, a coffee shop and a pub. Gene not only cooked this diverse menu, but he also managed the kitchen. The Stopha children joined in the work at the Olean House. Jane was a waitress. Paula was the salad girl. Mark bussed tables and washed dishes. Jeanne filled in whatever task was needed. She also sewed beautiful historical dresses for the Hoop’s Retreat wait staff. When the Olean House closed in 1979, Gene went to cook at the Bradford Club in Bradford, PA. While working the long hours required of any professional chef, Gene also helped Jeanne with church suppers and other charitable dinners.

Gene grew up hunting and fishing and passed his love of the outdoors to his children. He enjoyed fishing and cooking for family and friends at the Cash family cabin in the Georgian Bay, fishing and cooking with his son, Mark, in Alaska, and watching westerns and crime shows with his wife Shirley. No one ever left Gene’s home hungry.

Since 2005, he had lived with his wife Shirley in Hilton Head, South Carolina. He answered cooking questions on the phone from his children and grandchildren who live as far away as Alaska. His passion for cooking and eating well (and his sense of humor in the kitchen!) lives on in all those who have enjoyed his food, from Korea to Italy to South Carolina and all the way back to Olean. How many thousands of people were fed by Gene over the years? 

Gene Stopha’s French Onion Soup Recipe

Remembrances

Yesterday, we said farewell to my father-in-law/master chef/veteran and courageous dear friend, Gene Stopha. He could effortlessly cook both high-end fine food and the comfort recipes of his humble polish heritage. As a passionate amateur cook, I married into the family around the time Gene was retiring so I had the pleasure of cooking with him for 20 years. He didn’t talk like most master chefs. Whether it was a family Thanksgiving meal or a six course, Tuscan meal fundraiser for 100, I always knew Gene was pleased with our collective performance when he said, “Well Glenny, another night shot to hell!” The last few years have been tough for him. He has gone between home and hospital several times, wrestling with the accumulated affects of the physical punishment that so many career chefs experience. It is our loss here on the Earth, but I am assured that there is a new chef in Heaven’s kitchen today!

-Glenn McClure

Your Dad was my lifeline in early sobriety….then we became friends for life. I know he is finally free from pain and cooking for others in the greatest kitchen of all.

-Gene's friend

We are so sorry. He spent a lot of time at our house. Always helping out and sharing all the great food he cooked. He would call Bonnie Queenie when she would tell us guys we where making a mess in her kitchen. He was always a caring and giving man. Just like your Mom both had great hearts.

-Gene's friend Dean

Your mom and dad were wonderful to me as a kid growing up. I especially loved the cookouts up at our camp in Canada with that big old frying pan your dad would use to cook up hotdogs. My dad would get us to different places for picnics as we did up there with our kids. One summer I worked at the olean house as a waitress and learned some of your dads recipes. Zucchini with caraway seeds and onion I still make today as a treat. You all have the same smile as he does. Hold on to that smile. It’s catchy.

-Carla

I too remember the fun we had up in Canada.  Uncle Gene completely took over the cooking and it was awesome.  I also remember the fun times we had with all of us together at the ‘FARM’ 🙂 Your parents were such great people as are you all. We still have such a good time when we get together.

-Cindy

I am so sorry to hear of your Dad’s death. I have a couple of stories about Uncle Gene.

He prepared the most fantastic wedding dinner for us at the old City Club location he had just bought. It was a Cornish hen dinner. Wonderful. Nothing like it at any other wedding I’ve attended. 

Remember the time Uncle Gene arrived at Baruca, only to step out of the boat onto the dock, and slip and break his ankle right off the bat?? He didn’t want to lose vacation time so he wouldn’t go to Parry Sound to the ER for an X-ray. His meals at Baruca were legend — and someone else cleaned up! That was the deal. He made wonderful fish in the oven, just great.

What a laugh. Great laugh. From his toes up. 

He was always so proud of you children and amazed at what you accomplished. He loved visiting you.

John remembers fishing with Gene in Baruca and casting this huge rapalla lure until his arm was going to fall off. Uncle Gene never tired of fishing at any time, though.

Your Mom, Jeannie, was a special person, too. Now they’ve all gone into the mystic.

“The old order changeth and yieldeth to the new.”

-Christine

I remember being at home and the phone would ring and it was your Dad calling my Dad. Random times, random topics but they always spoke for no less than 10 min, and my Dad looked forward to those calls.

-Emily

One Comment

    Samantha Muscato

    Maryann, I can’t remember one specific memory. But if i close my eyes, I can remember running around your house and hearing your dad either yell at us or to your mom as he was sitting in his chair in the living room. Or standing in the kitchen, cooking us something to eat. I will always remember how welcoming your family was to me every time I came over, and especially during the “Ice Storm” when they let me “live with you” for a week and Joel teaching us euchre by candle light, listening to the radio while sitting on the floor in the living room.
    Love you Stopha family,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*
*