Cecelia `Cece' Witow, 52, caterer in Reisterstown

April 06, 2006|By FREDERICK N. RASMUSSEN | FREDERICK N. RASMUSSEN,SUN REPORTER

More than 700 mourners jammed into Sol Levinson & Bros. on Sunday afternoon to attend services for Cecelia "Cece" Witow, a beloved Reisterstown caterer whose reputation for her meticulously prepared food was only equaled by her penchant for Borscht Belt humor.

Mrs. Witow, 52, died Friday at Johns Hopkins Hospital of lymphoma.

She was born Cecelia Meyer in Baltimore and raised in the Pimlico neighborhood. After graduating from Northwestern High School in 1972, she attended the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and what is now Towson University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in education in the 1980s.

While working as a cashier at a Baltimore bowling alley, Mrs. Witow met her future husband but didn't know his last name. All she knew was that he drove a Chevy Vega.

"She told all her friends that she was in love with a guy named Charlie Vega," said her husband of 27 years, Charles L. Witow.

From 1982 until 1996, Mrs. Witow taught preschoolers at the Jewish Community Center in Owings Mills.

In addition to teaching, Mrs. Witow was an accomplished baker and in 1993 opened Small Delights. Three years later, she established Cece Witow Catering Inc., kosher caterers.

She catered private parties as well as functions at area synagogues, including Beth Israel Congregation, where she was a member.

"The reason she used Cece for her business was because she wanted to be at the top of the caterer listings in the Yellow Pages," said Mr. Witow, a management analyst for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

"When she started the business she figured she'd do four events a month, which grew to 40 jobs a month, and one year she did 398 jobs - and all this was word of mouth and not from advertising."

"We were very lucky if we could get a cooked meal from her at home, she was so busy. So, I started to help her out because it was the only time I could see her, and then the joke went around that I was sleeping with the boss," Mr. Witow added, laughing.

"While she was an incredible cook and had a great personality, the clock was her enemy," her husband said. "People would deliberately tell her a different time so she'd be there when she was supposed to be.

"One time, she had a noon party and was running late, which made the hostess very nervous. So, Cece called and told her to relax, that we still had seven minutes. She made it and the party started on time."

Another time while en route to a job in her GMC Suburban, a car cut her off, and her vehicle hit a telephone pole, causing slight damage.

"When she got to the job, the man complained that there wasn't enough gravy for the brisket, and she told him it was all over the seat," Mr. Witow said. "But if he wanted, she'd wring it out of the upholstery but he probably wouldn't want it."

When she wasn't working, Mrs. Witow enjoyed shopping and playing the slots in Atlantic City, N.J.

"I said in my eulogy for Cece, that word of her untimely and tragic passing spread almost as fast as her recipe for gefilte fish loaf," Rabbi Jay Goldstein of Beth Israel Congregation said yesterday.

"She was an entertainer - quick to hold a wooden spoon to her mouth and belt out Motown tunes," said Elizabeth A. Schuman, a longtime friend and a Baltimore writer. "She was an incredibly nurturing woman who was a mother to everyone. If you said Cece in the Baltimore Jewish community, everyone knew who you were talking about."

Mrs. Witow, who worked nearly to the end of her life, was found to have a rare form of lymphoma in November.

Near death, Mrs. Witow led her family and friends in one last song while waving her trademark spoon.

"When I visited Cece in her final hours, we sang together many different prayers as she recited Sh'ma, and then, with the little strength she had left and a plastic spoon in her hand, she led all of us in the room in a rousing rendition of `Adon Olam,'" Rabbi Goldstein said in his eulogy.

Also surviving are a son, Brian M. Witow of Reisterstown; a daughter, Laura S. Witow of Reisterstown; her father, Maurice Meyer of Baltimore; and a sister, Alexis Morris of Eilat, Israel.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.