Inside B-n-K Restaurant, the Urbas family traded tears for hope and despair for strength. Missing were the two people who brought them there in the first place.
Inside B-n-K Restaurant, the Urbas family traded tears for hope and despair for strength. They greeted each other the same as they have in past years — with warm hugs and handshakes.
But this year, the Thanksgiving table was a little different. Around it sat a few new and unfamiliar faces. Missing from it were the two people who brought them there in the first place.
“We’re usually closed,” B-n-K owner Wendy Urbas said, “but we decided this would be a better way to deal with today.”
Nine weeks ago, Ann Urbas Blankenship, 42, and her 8-year-old daughter, Grayce, were killed at the hand of their husband and father, Kyle Blankenship, at their northeast Massillon home. Kyle Blankenship turned the gun on himself.
Wendy and husband Jeff Urbas, Ann’s older brother, along with the entire Urbas family and several friends, bypassed the typical Thanksgiving dinner Thursday to remember Ann and Grayce and to give back to the community that they say has been so supportive since the Sept. 19 tragedy.
They opened the Locust Street restaurant’s doors for five hours Thursday to offer free Thanksgiving dinners to those who might not be able to afford it or who don’t have family or friends to share the day with. They planned to give any leftovers to the Salvation Army or another agency.
Jeff Urbas said there are plans to eventually rename B-n-K to Grayce Ann’s Family Restaurant, but the menu, staff and all other aspects of the cozy eatery will remain the same.
“Ann was love,” said mother Jeanne Urbas, who has hosted the family in past years for the holiday feast. “Ann was compassion. We wanted to return that to others.”
Jeanne Urbas said her family may not ever understand what occurred that Sunday afternoon in September, but they are trying to cope, a process made easier by the outpouring of support from the community. The Urbas family’s “network” of friends donated turkeys and desserts and offered to cook and volunteer their time to the Thanksgiving meal.
Family members wore large buttons with a picture of Ann and Grayce, whose portraits also hung from the restaurant’s walls.
“We’re dealing with it in a positive way on their behalf,” Jeff Urbas said. “This is a better celebration of their lives to give to other people. This is a more worldly gesture. We’re sharing our love for them with others.”
Wendy Urbas said her sister-in-law and niece loved Thanksgiving.
“Thanksgiving was always a big deal with Ann,” she said. “She would always cover her plate even if it took her two hours to eat it. And she even brought her own containers for leftovers.”
Despite their loss, the family says they can find plenty to be thankful for this holiday.
“I’m thankful that my daughter and granddaughter loved the Lord and they had the grace of God,” Jeanne Urbas said. “There’s no doubt in my mind where they are today.”
“What gives me the most peace is they are with me all the time. They are not out there somewhere,” younger brother Joe Urbas said. “They are with me — right here. In my heart.”