GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Mid-Michigan has lost another business icon. Just days after the death of Irene Bronner, The Bavarian Inn Lodge in Frankenmuth announced Wednesday on social media that president and owner Judy Zehnder Keller had died. She was 77 years old.
In a statement posted to the company’s website, family said Zehnder Keller will be remembered for her dedication to her family and her community.
“Today we mourn the passing of our beloved wife, mother and grandmother and thank the entire community for its support during this time. Judy Zehnder Keller was a true pioneering businesswoman in our community and her legacy will be long remembered by those who love the Bavarian Inn and our family’s commitment to this community,” the statement said.
Judy was the eldest daughter of Tiny and Dorothy Zehnder, who purchased Fischer’s Hotel in 1950 and grew it into a local legend. The Bavarian Inn Restaurant & Lodge is known across the state for its authentic German cuisine and its family-style chicken dinners.
Zehnder Keller worked at the restaurant for 25 years before jumping on the chance to expand the business and develop the Bavarian Inn Lodge. According to a post from the Bavarian Inn, Zehnder Keller was involved in the company every step of the way, including six expansions.
She was recognized by several organizations for her business acumen, including being named “Hotelier of the Year” by the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association and “Alumna of the Year” by Michigan State University’s School of Hospitality Business.
Business accomplishments aside, Zehnder Keller also worked for her community. She served for 12 years on Frankenmuth’s City Council — the first woman to hold that seat. She was the first female member and the first female president of the local chapter of the Rotary Club. Zehnder Keller also appointed by former Gov. Jennifer Granholm and served two terms on the Michigan Travel Commission and the Michigan Hotel/Motel Board of Directors.
Judy Zehnder Keller is survived by her husband, her three children, her grandchildren and her mother Dorothy, who turned 100 in December and remains involved in the Bavarian Inn Restaurant’s day-to-day business.
Private funeral services will be held at Cederberg Funeral Home of Frankenmuth.