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An Unforgettable Birthday Surprise

Updated: Nov 17, 2023


What started as an ordinary day for most was an extraordinary day for an 84-year-old woman. Meet Helen Robel, a mother of seven with 19 grandchildren and 42 great grandchildren.


Helen has been a very hard worker all her life. Last June, she was diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), a neurodegenerative disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, making it extremely difficult to walk, talk, eat, swallow, and breathe.


At the time, Helen was told she only had 3-6 months to live, making this 84th birthday an unexpected and wonderful surprise for her family and friends.


Helen had told her daughter, Mary, about a wonderful evening she shared at Gideon Owen several months back. One of the owners of the historic winery, Quin, and his brother, Kelly, had been her boss in the past and had made the evening very special for her. The story of that night has been repeated so many times that Mary wanted her mother to be able to have one more special moment in a place she truly enjoyed.


Mary contacted the Gideon Owen staff and drew up plans to make the evening as special as the occasion. She wanted it to be a memorable day for her mother, one filled with surprises and love that could live on in the hearts of her family and friends.


On the evening of January 29, Helen was ready to have a nice, quiet birthday dinner with her husband Francis, son-in-law Tobi, and Mary. However, little did she know that her family and close friends were gathered inside Gideon Owen’s grand ballroom to celebrate what could be her last birthday.


As Helen entered through the doors, she was greeted with loud, joyous cheering and clapping. Helen was overwhelmed with joy seeing everyone there to celebrate.


“This was a wonderful surprise and a very special night,” Helen said. “Gideon Owen is my favorite restaurant and sharing this place with my family makes me happy.”


After sharing hugs, laughter, and stories with her family and friends, Helen ordered her favorite item on the menu, a cup of creamy Lobster Bisque. Walleye Bites and Mussels were shared as a starter, and the Steak and Fries and nightly special of Artic Char were chosen for dinner.


To conclude the lively celebration, the family indulged in the Crème Brulee and Cheesecake with chocolate and raspberry sauce on the side. Some packed the desserts to go because they had eaten so much already and didn’t want to miss out on the desserts. Gideon Owen sent a large piece of Cheesecake home with Helen as a thank you for sharing her special day with them.


“Gideon Owen exceeded my expectations, from the friendly, warm, and helpful staff and inviting environment (including the firepit in the main dining area) to the amazing food,” Mary said. “My mom was so happy, she had tears in her eyes. Our family thanks the owners and staff at Gideon Owen for helping to make the evening unforgettable!”


The Gideon Owen staff was honored and deeply touched to have been part of such a wonderful, happy memory for the Robel family. Happy Birthday, Helen! And thank you for sharing this special day with us.


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