Karen L. Casalinova, owner of the popular ice cream stand at 192 Milan Ave., died the previous day. She was 73.
Her obituary states Casalinova had been in the Cleveland Clinic ICU, fighting for her life for four days “until her frail body finally gave up the fight.”
The eatery was open until about 4:30 p.m. Friday. It was open again Saturday and Sunday. However, Vargo’s will be closed Tuesday and Wednesday for the calling hours and funeral arrangements.
Casalinova and Vargo’s were featured in a story written by Madeline Roche in the May/June 2016 issue of Discover Norwalk.
The business celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. Casalinova started working there in 1966 at the age of 21 when her parents bought the former Ohley’s restaurant. She purchased Vargo’s from her parents in 1979 and continued working there with her husband, Ron, and later with their children.
Casalinova loved her employees and treated them and her customers like family.
“It’s a good family place,” she told Discover Norwalk.
Upon hearing the news, area residents expressed sadness and condolences to the family through social media.
"Karen was a very kind lady and will be greatly missed," Bonnie Grone Stein said.
"I'm so sad, she was a very nice person and will be missed by all of us. Sympathy to the family and workers at Vargo's," Jan Heitsche said.
"I am in shock at hearing this. I'm so sorry for your loss. Tracy she was a wonderful caring soul," Barb Midriff Cory said.
"I am so sorry for the loss of Karen. Been coming there since I was little with my grandparents," Sue Kuhlman said.
"So very sorry to hear this. May your family and extended work family feel wrapped in love from all of us who were touched by her smile and happiness every time we came to Vargo's," Kelly Root said.
"I am so sorry. Sending prayers to the whole family. She was a great boss back in the day," Nicole Smith said.
Survivors include her husband, Ronald, who she married Aug. 11, 1961, at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Huron; daughters, Tracy Casalinova (Matt) of Norwalk, Margaret (Frank) Faria; a son Ronald (Dawn) Casalinova of Huron; and grandchildren, Frankie III, Ronnie III and Allie Renee.
Casalinova was born on Oct. 28 1943 in Sandusky, the daughter of the late Joseph and Margaret Vargo. They lived in Castalia and she went to Margaretta Elementary School until the family moved to Huron. She graduated from Huron High School.
Since her parents purchased the restaurant, the family has been very involved in its day-to-day operations.
Today, Casalinova’s son Ron and daughter Tracy work at Vargo’s, as does Karen’s husband, sometimes referred to as “Big Ron,” who runs the Vargo’s miniature golf course. A variety of people are employed at Vargo’s, including nurses, teachers and relatives of past employees. However, the role of cook always has been occupied by a family member. Karen used to be the cook until it was Tracy and now Ron has this position.
“We make all of our food. It’s always made and actually cooked,” Karen told Discover Norwalk.
The most popular item at Vargo’s is the Foot Long Coney but the menu varies from flurries, malts, shakes, sundaes and ice cream cones to sandwiches, wraps, wings, salads, dinners and more. There are many sandwich options ranging from a bacon double cheeseburger and grilled chicken breast to a Lake Erie perch or a gyro.
More than 20 side orders are offered, including traditional items such as french fries, onion rings and fried mushrooms to novelties such as hot pepper cheese balls, fried pickles, and mac-and-cheese bites.
Vargo’s won a Gold Plate Award each of the last three years. The Huron County health department program acknowledges food service establishments that maintain excellent food safety practices.
Casalinova was an avid supporter of the Humane Society, enjoyed gardening and supported of all the surrounding schools, as well as clubs, local libraries, and fire and police departments. She sponsored baseball and softball teams.
She also worked for H&R Block in Norwalk for 10 years during Vargo’s off season.
Friends may call from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Foster Funeral Home & Crematory, 410 Main St., Huron. Funeral service and a Mass will take place at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at St. Peter Catholic Church, 430 Main Street, Huron. Burial will be in Meadow Green Memoria Park, Huron.