Longtime Iron Range chef, business owner diesJoan Patricia "Jo Pat" Curtis, wife and business partner of Toney Curtis, and chef and co-owner of the Whistling Bird Cafe and Bar, a Jamaican restaurant in downtown Gilbert, died Tuesday after a long battle with kidney disease. She was 58.
By: Jimmy Bellamy, Duluth News Tribune
A former chef and co-owner of a popular longtime Gilbert restaurant has died.
Joan Patricia “Jo Pat” Curtis, wife and business partner of Toney Curtis, died Tuesday after a three-year battle with Wegener's disease, a disease of the kidneys. She was 58.
Jo Pat was chef and co-owner of the Whistling Bird Cafe and Bar, a Jamaican restaurant in downtown Gilbert she and Toney opened in 1999. The Curtises closed the restaurant in November 2009, citing a down economy and Jo Pat’s health as reasons for the decision.
“I’m just so sad to hear that (she died). She was a wonderful person who had a heart of gold. She always did right for people,” said Janna Dreher of Two Harbors, who runs the Bayfront Reggae Festival with her husband, Peter Isaacs, who, like Toney Curtis, is from Jamaica. “Her illness caused hardship on the family. It’s very sad to see her passing.”
According to her obituary, Joan Patricia Beise was born Aug. 25, 1951, in St. Paul and graduated of Lester Prairie (Minn.) High School in 1969. She studied nursing at St. Cloud State and attended Hibbing Culinary School.
Jo Pat met Toney in his native Jamaica. They were married on Nov. 24, 1991.
“She was a very energetic lady,” Gilbert Mayor Donald Bellerud, who lived next to the Curtises for 25 years, said. “She was a good neighbor.”
Throughout her career, Jo Pat also served as executive chef for Franklin House, Esquagama Country Club, Rainy Lake Saloon & Deli, the Coates Hotel, Mesaba Country Club, and Grand Ely Lodge.
“She was a marvelous chef, and people loved the restaurant,” said Dreher, who met the Curtises in 2006, the same year Isaacs came to the area from Jamaica. “She and Toney were a great team. He did the schmoozing and the PR part while she prepared the food. It was a great operation.”
She is survived by Toney Curtis and her brother, Bill Beise of Minneapolis.
A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Gilbert. Visitation is 5-7 p.m. Sunday at Ziemer-Moeglein-Shatava Funeral Home in Gilbert and will continue at the church for one hour before Monday’s memorial service.