Join us for the Celebration of Life for Eugene Stopha
Saturday, June 26, 2021
St. Mary’s Church • 111 Wellsville St, Bolivar, NY 14715 • 4:30PM
Reception to follow service
All NYS guidelines will be followed
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.
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
Eulogy for Eugene Edward Stopha June 26, 2021
September 2, 1935 – January 31, 2020
–Written and delivered by Joel Stopha
Dad was born in 1935, in the heart of the Great Depression. His early childhood in Blasdell, NY, included the second-half of the Depression and the the entirety of World War II. Imagine if that was the world as you knew it the first 10 years of your life. If you ever wondered why my Dad always collected “pop” bottles and cans or why he was always looking to ‘re-purpose’ items rather than throw them away, consider his childhood. Also consider that Dad graduated from high school just a month before the end of the Korean War.
Many of you may not know this, but when Dad started working at the Bradford Club and NY state instituted the 5 cent can and bottle deposit, Dad found “party spots” in Pennsylvania, and on his way home from Bradford, he would stop to collect hundreds of discarded beer cans each week. He turned others trash into his weekly allowance (just like when he was a kid). From the time I could remember, Dad’s entire paycheck went to Mom to pay bills and provide for our family. His spending money was always made on side-gigs such as can collecting, firewood sales (my dad cut his fair share of firewood!!!), and misery utilization of his “gas allowance” from the Bradford Club. (If you want that story, see me at the reception).
Dad, affectionately known as “Sonny” by his parents and close family members, found that he enjoyed and had a knack for the food service industry. As a teenager, he would get up at 4:30 in the morning, and work at a bakery from 5:00 – 7:30, then go to school. Can you imagine any 16 year old in the last 40 years doing this? Me neither, but Dad always did the things he needed to do to without complaining.
Dad’s high school nickname was “Jet”. Dad would never tell me what the nickname stood for, and when I asked my Uncle Dickie what was in the name, he said, “your dad could run like the wind” (I said, “Yea, probably from the authorities”). Considering the source, Uncle Dickie, God Rest His Soul, and the fact that no other Stopha was ever fleet of foot, I conclude that “Jet” was not for his ability to run, but for his Slicked Back, Jet Black hairdo!!
When I spoke with my cousins who spent a lot of time with Dad at their remote cabin on the Georgian Bay in Canada, that said that Uncle Gene was a “Comfort Person” to them. Always making sure everyone who wanted to fish had a pole that worked properly, untangle fishing line with patience, and most of all teaching them how to Gut and Fillet a fish when they caught it. Dad’s attitude was, “If you were going to catch it, then you were gonna learn how to clean it.” They knew that when Uncle Gene was around, everything was going to be OK.
I mentioned Dad’s knack for the food service industry. I say knack, because he never wrote anything down. His brain was a “Recipe Rolodex”. In 1971 when Caroline Cash and Jake Schreiber wanted Dad to prepare for 250 people for their wedding reception in Caroline’s parent’s back yard, Dad knew exactly how many pounds of meat to prepare, how many pounds of pasta to purchase, and how many rolls to buy. Dad was just flat out “good” at pulling things together and preparing enough food for large events. He picked that up in the Army and by catering so many large events. Anyone here ever remember ever running out of food when Dad was around? I can’t!
One skill Dad never learned was kitchen clean up!! His attitude was, – he cooked it and so it was someone else’s responsibility to clean it up. That simple! But his cooking was so good, it was ALWAY worth cleaning up after him.
Dad volunteered to prepare the food or cater countless graduations, wedding receptions, parties, event. Raise your hand if you ever attended an event my father catered.
Dad struggled in the classroom. When I was in high school, he would check in on me when I was studying in my bedroom. Dad would always ask, “What are your studying?” No matter what subject I was studying, Dad would always say, “Sorry I can’t help. I wasn’t very good at Geometry, Chemistry, Biology, or whatever subject I named. He would say, “I only got a “C” in that in High School.” Physics was the only exception. Dad told me more than once, “I don’t get that Physics stuff. I had to take it twice. Got an “F” the first time and a “C-” the second. Dad was living proof of what Uncle Mark tells all of his nieces and nephews, “C’s get Degrees”
While Dad struggle in an academic setting, he saw formal education as a bright path for his kids. On many occasions, Dad told me, “I will do whatever I can to help you and your brother and sisters get an education. If that means I have to work 3 jobs, then I will work 3 jobs.” Fortunately, Dad didn’t have to work 3 jobs to get us all through college, but knowing that he was willing to was always comforting.
Dad loved short sayings, nicknames, and terms of endearment. Dad coined the term, “Pizza – Pizza” with the Schreiber kids in the early ’70’s, long before Little Caesars existed. After the kids repeated his , “Pizza – Pizza”, Dad would follow that up with, “Tasty – Tasty”. Is it any wonder that one of Dad’s favorite words was, “Tasty”. Raise your hand if you ever heard my Dad say, “Taaaasty”
Dad loved nicknames.
my brother-in-law, Glenn, was “Glennie”
and my sister, Paula, was “Pea Picker”
my sister Julie’s friend, Stacy Manning Richardson, a West Point Grad, was “The General”
Julie, a Naval Academy Grad, was “The Admiral”, and their friend, Erin Webb Kearns, was “The Queen” (a term of endearment)
Not to be mistaken with Bonnie Davis, who was “Queenie” (also a term of endearment) My son, Clay, was “Opie”
Eileen Schaffner was “The Rich Lady” (again a term of endearment)
Dad’s friend, Brian Belden was “Mr. B”
and finally, Gary Baker, another one of Dad’s friends, was Coop De Grassie – the phonetic pronunciation coup de grasse (leave it to Dad)
Most men of Dad’s generation wanted to “make a difference” by being good providers for their families, good “fix-it Fathers”, and good, loyal friends. While Gene certainly “made a difference” in many of our taste buds and stomachs with his wonderful cooking, I can certainly say that he “made a difference” in my brother and sisters lives by being a good provider, a good father, and our biggest encourager. Thanks Dad. And when Dad entered Heaven, I am sure the Lord said, “Well done, My good and faithful servant.” – Thank you.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.