The Blade, Toledo, Ohio, Barbara Hendel column: On the Town: Gem of all balls

Center stage at the Crowne Plaza Saturday night was the 49th Annual Sapphire Ball to benefit the Toledo Opera Association. Sponsors were Block Communications Inc., Healthcare REIT, the Ashley Group, and the Gorski family.

Ladies were lovely in gowns and gents debonair in tuxedos. The evening, at $250 per person, $200 for subscribers, featured a superb four-course gourmet dinner, served in acts in an elegant, candlelit setting at crisp, white-linen-covered tables centered with white orchids. Mmm. Lamb chops and tuna crustada were served during cocktails as guests perused the silent auction items. Sea bass, beef tenderloin, or portabella mushroom entrees rounded out the meal that was topped with dark chocolate mousse torte for dessert. A 15-item live auction followed before many burned calories by dancing to HepCat Revival.

Soaring voices that put the grand in grand opera shone during the intermezzo, giving all a sneak peek of what's in store for the upcoming Falstaff, which opens the season on Nov. 7 at The Valentine Theatre.

Opera Association director Renay Conlin and maestro Tom Conlin, her husband, ran the show. A raffle for a Saturn Aura XR lease donated by Saturn of Toledo was won by someone who was out of town, so it will be a big surprise when he or she returns.

Bravo to event chairmen Nancy Burton and John Fedderke and their committee. The preliminary estimated net of $85,000 raises 10 percent of the opera's annual income to support the productions and educational programs.

Among the 200 guests were Bill and Joanne McElheney, Carol Greenberg, Maureen and Steve Brown, Carol and Frank Kistler, Cindy and Jack Niggemyer, Ann Sanford, Lou Tosi and Mary Ellen Pisanelli, Karen and Carl Fraker, Kathy and Tony Hoops, Debbie Joslin, Keith and Susan Burwell, Kevin and Sandra Sauder, Lyman Spitzer, Ralph and Karen DeNune, Brian and Marci McMahon, Anne Baker and Robert Lacy, Hussein and Randa Shousher, Alan and Ann Goodridge, Cookie Westmeyer, Bruce Denman and Barbie Fisher, Mike and Sharon Sordyl of the Ashley Group, Leslie Ansberg and George Chapman, who is the chairman, CEO, and president of Healthcare REIT, honorary Chairman Luci Gorski, there with Robert Billstein and the rest of her family, and Allan Block, chairman of Block Communications Inc., the parent company of The Blade, with Susan Pond.

Wine, song for hospice

Eating, drinking, and dancing were on the slate for "A Celebration of Sonoma," presented by The Delp Co. Friday night. The beneficiary was ProMedica Ebeid Hospice Residence, and the Secor Building in downtown Toledo, formerly the Secor Hotel, was the classy setting. The black-tie event -- $500 a person -- featured estate wines from Rodney Strong Vineyards in Sonoma, Calif. These fine wines were joined with hors d'oeuvres and a gourmet meal prepared and artfully served by Evans Street Station of Tecumseh. An exquisitely decadent dessert, designed by Eston's Gourmet Creations of Sylvania, finished the meal. Mmm: duck confit, lump crab, fig and bibb salad with hazlenuts and apples, prawns, and braised short ribs, and a chocolate raspberry cheesecake concoction made everyone's mouth water with delight. Everyone was impressed that the wine bottles had "she" corks and that the wines served -- sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, cabernet, pinot noir, and zinfandel -- were available for purchase that night.

The speakeasy atmosphere in the old building with candlelight was enhanced by the sounds of Melanie Covington of St. Louis, who sang with the Temptations at the age of 4. She wowed the audience with her velvety and sultry voice. Her presence was compliments of 2020 Exhibits. Cool jazz, pop, rhythm and blues, and more were played by the Bob Rex Trio.

Among the 150 guests were Gladeen Roberts, the president of the hospice facility, who said the center is ProMedica's first green building; Larry Peterson, board president of ProMedica, Nasir and Lynn Ali, Joan Bayer, Brian and Beth Bucher, Rita Mansour, Keith and Katy Walker, Kaiko Zureich, Bob and Karen Gardner, and Jim Findlay and PJ Schaefer. Mr. Findlay is the campaign chairman for the ProMedica Goerlich Center's $1.1 million goal, and he said they already have $800,000.

Joanne McElheney and Sophie Liebich, whose late husbands were assisted by hospice in their last days, gave testimonials.

Adding more heartfelt testimony was Kristina Ebeid, granddaughter of Russ and Carolee Ebeid, honorary chairmen who donated $1 million in 2008. The Ebeids were not able to attend, but Kristina read a letter from her grandfather, adding a few words of her own. She said the event was a celebration of "the essence and gift of life," and what made it extra special was it was held on her grandmother's birthday.

Also honorary event chairmen were Alan Brass and Dana Fike, who announced their wedding engagement that night. Everyone toasted the pair and oohed and ahhed over her sparkling bling, then bid farewell to Mr. Brass because he has just retired. In the driver's seat now for ProMedica Health System is Randy Oostra.

Local art, wine trips, sports, beauty packages, and more were all on the silent and live auction blocks. Among the auction items was original art from the invitation, along with a painting created that night by Aaron Bivins. Jerry Anderson of WTOL-TV, Channel 11, was the auctioneer and emcee. Event chairmen Jim and Kay Murray said the estimated $70,000 net goes to those who cannot afford hospice care at Ebeid and ProMedica.

Symphony serenade

FrazIer Reams and Fritz Wolfe celebrated their big 8-0 birthdays in style with a Toledo Symphony Orchestra concert and an afterparty Friday in the Perrysburg home of Mr. Wolfe and his wife, Mary, with Mr. Reams' wife, Susan, and a host of symphony supporters.

The birthday boys, friends who were born in the same hospital, had a blast as they were serenaded with "Happy Birthday" led by Lauraine Carpenter, TSO principal trumpet.

It was also an extra special night for Thomas Stuart. The son of Andy and Sarilee Stuart is the concertmaster in the Toledo and Cleveland Youth orchestras, and he met guest artist Ignat Solzhenitsyn. Mr. Solzhenitsyn performed with and conducted the orchestra in the Friday and Saturday classics concerts at the Peristyle.

The piano on which he played, a Steinway Model D grand piano, was new last season and Mr. Solzhenitsyn helped select it with Stefan Sanderling, principal conductor, two summers ago. It was Mr. Solzhenitsyn's first time playing the instrument since then. Also at the afterparty were several TSO musicians including Joel Tse, principal flute and Valentin Ragusitu, principal viola, and Bob Bell, TSO president.

Saddle up to fight cancer

They put on their best denim and diamonds for the fight against cancer. The American Cancer Society of Northwest Ohio's Cattle Baron's Ball was Oct. 17 at the Franciscan Center on the Lourdes College campus. Cowboy boots, Stetsons, cacti, lassos, and more set the western scene along with a mechanical bull and a hearty Tex Mex menu by Abuelo's Mexican Embassy: steak, chicken, and shrimp fajitas, guacamole, chips and salsa, and more. Adding to the meal were side items provided by Fricker's, Taruman, University of Toledo Medical Center, formerly the Medical College of Ohio, and SweetCakes Gourmet Cheesecakes.

Meanwhile, the Rodney Parker & Liberty Beach band enticed the some 250 guests to add a bit of pep in their step as they tried their luck at casino games and shopped the silent auction.

The evening's honoree was Morton Bobowick of Toledo, a two-time, rare skin cancer survivor. He lost his mother and mother-in-law to breast cancer, and his daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer last year. "You think about the important things in life: family, friends, and good health," Mr. Bobowick said. Mike Henry, event chairman with Susan Schwartz, called Mr. Bobowick a great role model in facing and overcoming cancer.

Assisting were emcee Laura Emerson of FOX Toledo, Bob Thompson, Cathy Nelson, Pat Giammarco, and many more. The estimated net is $67,000.

Lilies of education field

The National Sorority of Phi Delta Kappa Inc., Beta Gamma Chapter of Toledo, hosted its inaugural Calla Lily Educator's Award Luncheon Oct. 10 at The Pinnacle. Red and gold were everywhere, signifying the clubs colors. Pandra Taylor, chapter president, welcomed the more than 200 attendees, then Alexis Means of WTVG-TV, Channel 13, took over as emcee.

The 10 honored were Trevor Black, Frances Collins, Albert Flores, Peggy Harris, Barbie Harrison, Mary Hayes, Kristi Rose, Phyllis Smith, Johnnye Warnsley, and Johnny Hutton, who was the finalist. A glass calla lily was presented to each honoree and Mr. Hutton received a larger version of the same. After a tasty meal, Tyree Bell entertained with a dance performance.

Among the guests were Dorothy Batson, event chairman, and judges, including Bill Harris, Councilman Wilma Brown, Bonita Johnson, and Rachel Proctor.