St. Donatus community mourns restaurant owner - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

St. Donatus community mourns restaurant owner

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People in the community of St. Donatus are mourning the death of a restaurant owner. 

Helen Kalmes, 77, the co-owner of Kalmes Restaurant died last Thursday at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City. 

Her son, Jim Kalmes said the death of his mother affected the business pretty hard. "It's tough, sad," he said. "Weird not having her here after 61 years, you know...worked with her all my life."

The family owned business had been closed for a few days to deal with what happened. It has since reopened.

For 60 years, Helen was married to Lawrence Kalmes and they operated the business together. "She was raised on a farm, and it really didn't take her long to get in the business mood, she really adapted fast," he said.

They had five children. Family said the restaurant was her life. She worked there everyday with no plans of retiring soon.

Longtime customers are also grieving.  "She was a nice little chef too, she made some really exciting things, the German potato salad was one of her signature things, and that was always sold out," said Jay Barfls of St. Donatus.

Helen helped make the restaurant into a gathering place for the small town. 

"She, I think helped create this as a community center,  where everybody came and had a good time, even the state lottery people, one of them said, you know, this is one of the hot spots around," Barfls added. 

Lawrence, her husband said he misses her dearly, and would do the last 60 years with her, all over again. "She was a great lady."

Helen Kalmes also served on the St. Donatus City Council for several years.

Funeral services were held over the weekend and Monday. 

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