Local restaurant owner, Kalkaska alum passes away

Linda Gallagher, Contributing Writer

Photo by Linda Gallagher

Jenny Rowell (right) is shown during happier days with former Lunch Box owner Julie Budas.

REGION – The local community reacted with shock and sorrow this week upon hearing news about the passing of Jenny Rowell, co-owner of the Lunch Box cafe in downtown Bellaire, on Monday, June 24.

Rowell, 37, died at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit – where she had been hospitalized since Tuesday, May 21 – as the result of complications from an infection. She had initially been hospitalized at Munson Medical Center in Traverse City on Saturday, May 18, after several days of illness at home.

Well known to many in both the Bellaire area, and in the Kalkaska area where she grew up, Rowell was noted for her kindness and concern, and sweet, loving personality.

"Jenny was special," said one friend in a Facebook post, where condolences poured in from friends and family throughout the country. "She loved everyone, and there was nothing she wouldn't do for you. This is such a shock. She was the best."

A resident of Bellaire, Rowell purchased the popular Lunch Box late last fall with her brother Chad from the restaurant's longtime owners Julie and Dave Budas.

"Thinking of the family with a very heavy heart. Jen has always been so good to my family and I," wrote Jessica Dennis, of Bellaire, who suffered her own loss in 2017 with the tragic passing of her 7-year-old son. "I just can't believe this."

"Our Bellaire community has lost a very precious young lady," agreed Suzie Davis, also of Bellaire, and a frequent customer of the Lunch Box. "Comforting prayers to all who mourn her passing."

"I just can't get my head around this," said Katie Verellen, who with her husband Keith worked with Rowell for several years at the Pelican's Nest Grill, one of several area food establishments Rowell was employed at over the years before purchasing the Lunch Box. "This is just incomprehensible. She was so young."

Another friend, Toni Trumble, wrote, "I'll never forget your smile or the sound of your laughter. Rest easy, my friend."

A graduate of Kalkaska High School, Rowell studied culinary arts at Northwest Michigan College in Traverse City and worked at Shanty Creek Resorts as well as The Centennial Farm Golf Course in Bellaire, where she managed its restaurant and pub. She then worked at the Lunch Box as a cook and manager for six years before purchasing the restaurant, as well as part-time at the Pelican's Nest.

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