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"RAH" 2004 Obituary


RAHONC 

RAHONC o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.toronto_star 2004-12-28 published
Restaurateur's life of struggle inspired many
Joan RAHONC arrived in 1957 with no prospects
Her work ethic, values made her a West Hill icon
By Paul CHOI, Staff Reporter
For nearly 50 years, Joan RAHONC was a staple of West Hill.
The hard-working, big-hearted restaurateur won the hearts of many in the east Scarborough community with her rags-to-riches story.
RAHONC, 92, died December 15 after a short bout with pneumonia.
"Everybody in West Hill knew her and loved her," said her daughter, Millie TRAVENER. " She was definitely a big influence in the community."
RAHONC opened several restaurants in West Hill, including Millie's. Her rise to icon status in the area is a story of hardship and triumph, one many in the community have come to revere, her daughter said.
A native of Slovenia, she arrived to West Hill in 1957 as a widow, with little money and with a teenaged daughter in tow.
Alone and unable to speak English, she sought the help of a local Slovenian church where she was able to get her bearings and start a new life.
"She used to tell me about... sitting on a park bench in Toronto, when she had nothing," recalled her grand_son, Bob TRAVENER. " She was praying... and got the idea to go into the restaurant business."
Soon after, RAHONC took over a 24-hour truck stop and diner on Kingston Rd. At the time, it was one of the last stops on the way out of the city.
She named the restaurant Millie's, after her teenaged daughter. "She worked 23 hours of the 24 hours it was open," her grand_son said.
"She worked her butt off."
Most everyone who met RAHONC came to respect her, despite her limited English, her daughter said. That included the truckers who stopped at Millie's. "She would always tell the truckers not to swear, because she just wouldn't have that in her restaurant," said her daughter, who continues her mother's tradition by operating Sister's Restaurant on Old Kingston Rd., co-founded by her mother.
"All the guys always listened to her and respected her because of that. They respected hard-working people."
In 1968, RAHONC opened Millie's Billiards, a pool hall and bar across the street from the restaurant; it's still a popular centre of youth culture in West Hill.
It was here where, even in her later years, RAHONC would enjoy spending time with teenagers.
"She always hung around young people and she loved the Leafs and Blue Jays," said her grand_son. "Being in that atmosphere, she had to stay up to date with young people. But she absolutely loved doing it."
As her hard work began to pay off, RAHONC never lost sight of her family and her other passion, religion. She made time every Sunday to attend mass at the Saint Martin de Porres Catholic Church, on Lawrence Ave. E.
"She was always donating time and funds to her church," said her grand_son. "She really credited the church with any success she had in her life.... She was a very traditional woman."
For many in West Hill, it was this generosity, and foundation of traditional values, that made her such a lasting and esteemed figure in the community.
It wasn't unusual, for instance, to see RAHONC taking time out of her day to counsel her customers and converse with youngsters, her daughter recalled.
"People still come in and say, 'Your mother has been a very big influence on me.' It's still so much fun for me when people from the old days come in with their children and say, 'We had our first date in the truck stop,' and ask about my mom."
RAHONC's work ethic continued long past retirement age. Even at 85, she faithfully and tirelessly came to work.
"She loved doing it," said her grand_son. "She had no complaints about working long hours. She broke her ankle one time and we had to carry her wheelchair into the pool hall one day. She wouldn't take a day off even with her ankle broken.
"She really was the hardest working person I have met in my life."
RAHONC leaves her daughter Millie, four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Her husband, Johan, and daughter, Marija, died before her.

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