Duane R. Abbajay
1933 - 2017
Ansberg-West Funeral Home
3000 Sylvania Ave
Toledo, OH
(News story) Duane R. Abbajay, 84, who brought world-famous musicians to downtown Toledo and whose Country Palace became a tourist magnet after its mention in a hit song, died Tuesday in Perrysburg Commons.

He was in declining health the last year and had dementia, daughter Stephanie said. A longtime West Toledo resident, Mr. Abbajay lived in Northwood for a decade before he moved to the facility.

He retired from a quarter-century of nightclub ownership when, in 1988, he sold the Country Palace, located in historic Burt's Theatre at Jefferson Avenue and Ontario Street. At that location, he took over the Peppermint Club in 1962 from his brother Donald. Through the 1960s and into the 1970s, he filled the 500-seat venue by booking such acts as the Everly Brothers, Chubby Checker, the Marvelettes, and Jerry Lee Lewis.

"He realized he needed something big, and it wasn't going to happen if he just stuck to local talent," his daughter said.

Mr. Abbajay worked late afternoons through closing. Son Dino had to inform a caller to the family home one Saturday morning that Mr. Abbajay was still asleep.

"'You tell him Killer's coming to town,'" the caller said, his son recalled. "My dad later explained, 'That was Jerry Lee Lewis.'"

"He was a natural visionary. He brought in the best," said his son, who lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., with his wife, Paula Pennypacker, former Toledo mayoral and city council candidate. "He had a great talent for putting people at ease with him."

In the mid-1970s, Mr. Abbajay outfitted his club with wagon wheels and saddles and reopened it as the Country Palace. Waylon Jennings and Charlie Pride were among the venue's performers, but the biggest boost came from a singer who never played the Palace.

Kenny Rogers' 1977 hit song, "Lucille," included the phrase, "In a bar in Toledo, across from the depot." The Palace was across the street from the Greyhound station, and the song's writer, Hal Bynum, had witnessed a scene that served as inspiration. Fans of the singer traveled great distances to see that spot.

"It was validation for all the hard work he put in," his daughter said.

He was born June 2, 1933, to Geneva and Charles Abbajay, who were Syrian immigrants.

He was a 1951 graduate of Woodward High School, where he played football. His playing career at the University of Wisconsin was cut short by an injury.

For a time, he was in the construction business. He was a former vice president of sales for the George L. Freeman Co., an acoustical contracting firm.

He and the former Marie Kovacik married Feb. 8, 1957. She died Nov. 1, 1960. He married the former Mary Baldwin on April 14, 1962. She died July 18, 1986. His son Robert died Sept. 19, 1983.

The last 23 years, he and his companion and friend, Karol Poth, golfed and traveled the country to visit family.

Surviving are his sons, David and Duane C. "Dino" Abbajay; daughters, Mary Elizabeth Abbajay and Stephanie Abbajay; sisters, Jeanie Rejsa and Shirley Shoched, and seven grandchildren.

Funeral services will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Ansberg-West Funeral Home, where the body will be after 2 p.m.

The family suggests tributes to the Robert R. Abbajay Memorial Scholarship at Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio.

This is a news story by Mark Zaborney. Contact him at:[email protected] or 419-724-6182.
Published by The Blade on Sep. 1, 2017.
2:00p.m. - 6:00p.m.
Ansberg-West Funeral Home
3000 Sylvania Ave, Toledo, OH
Funeral service
Ansberg-West Funeral Home
3000 Sylvania Ave, Toledo, OH
Funeral services provided by:
Ansberg-West Funeral Home
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16 Entries
It was with heavy hearts we learned the passing of our beloved family member Duane. We are filled with great memories of him and know he will be with us always.

Dennis & Lois Ruffin
Mike & Mary Ruffin
Dave & Mary Ruffin
Dennis Ruffin
September 5, 2017
To the Abbajay Family,

It is with a heavy heart that I write this entry in this in my friends Guest Book.

I have known Duane since we were children; playing together at Lagrange School, Woodward High School football and the many late nights spent toghether in the old North end. So many fond memories of the moments and times we shared. Please know that Duane was loved by many of his friends and will be deeply missed.

I will pray for Duane and for you. May God embrace you and guide you through these tough time.

Please accept my deepest sympathy. May Duane find comfort, rest and peace.
Kenneth Hatzinikolis & Family
September 5, 2017
Stephanie and Family, I'm sorry that you have lost your Father. What a life! The people that he met, the things that he accomplished. Thinking of you. Ann Badasch
Ann Badasch
September 3, 2017
My deepest sympathy to the Abbajay family. My
thoughts and prayers are with all of you.
May you find comfort in the memories that are
yours to cherish always. And strength in the
companionship of all those who share your loss.
God bless his beautiful soul. And may God's
grace and peace be with you all.
Edward Rejsa
September 2, 2017
Mary You are in my thoughts and prayers

Lori Kurdys Keeler
Lori Keeler
September 2, 2017
A good man, good football player and friend.
Bob Morrissey
September 2, 2017
Dear Mary and Abbajay Family,
Condolences on your loss. You'll be in my thoughts and prayers.
John Sweeney
September 2, 2017
Stephanie..., "So sorry for your loss; God's blessings to you & your family"
Larry Mopps II
September 1, 2017
Very sorry for your loss, a wonderful man that I had worked for at the Country Palace for years, will be greatly remembered by many! Shared many good times while being a friend and employee of this intelligent, caring man.... So many memories. Rest in Heaven as you are reunited with your family.
September 1, 2017
its been many years since i saw you, i worked for duane for many years at the country palace, thats where i met duane, he always made every one special, will miss you r. i. p.
becky feltner
September 1, 2017
Shirley. My sympathies on your loss
Bernie Solomon
September 1, 2017
Dino,Mary & Stephanie,
My heart has been broken since your Dads passing. What a wonderful man! I could fill this whole entry with examples!
For 15 years, 7 days a week, I worked for your Dad. I felt like he was my Dad also!
He was the best boss ever! His kind & gentle spirit to everyone was a blessing in itself. I'm so glad I got to see him in July! He couldn't talk, but his reaction showed that he remembered me!
A note of thanks to Karol for taking care of him in such a beautiful way.
I will remember him in my prayers & the rest of my life!
Rest in peace DARLIN'
Stephanie Kuron
September 1, 2017
My deepest sympathy to the Abbajay family for your loss. May you find strength and hope in the God of all comfort during this difficult time.
September 1, 2017
RIP my friend! Thank you for all the beautiful memories, your clubs gave us over the years!
Carol Sue Huff ( Wathey)
August 31, 2017
My deepest condolences to the Abbajay children and family of my dear, fun-loving Uncle Duane. He will be missed, never forgotten, and always loved. Rest in Peace now, with Bobby, Aunt Marie and Aunt Mary.
Terry Rejsa-Gilman
August 31, 2017
Terry ("Bug", neice) Gilman (Rejsa)
August 31, 2017
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