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CLIFTON'S CO-OWNER DEAD AT 83 BODY FOUND IN HOME; HOMICIDE SUSPECTED.

Byline: EUGENE TONG Staff Writer

GLENDALE -- The 83-year-old co-owner of Clifton's Cafeteria, the iconic downtown Los Angeles eatery, was found dead in her penthouse condominium in what police suspect was a homicide, authorities said Thursday.

The body of Jean Clinton Roeschlaub, daughter of Clifton's founder Clifford Clinton, was discovered Wednesday at her 16th-floor condominium in the 200 block of Monterey Road, Glendale police spokesman John Balian said.

There were ``suspicious circumstances'' surrounding her death, Balian said. He did not elaborate.

The Los Angeles County Coroner's Office is conducting an autopsy.

Up to her death, Roeschlaub was active in the running of the Clifton's Brookdale Cafeteria at 648 S. Broadway, the only remaining restaurant in a chain that began serving up budget meals during the Great Depression.

Her sudden death shocked her family.

``It's a jolt and you never really gear up for it,'' said Don Clinton, Roeschlaub's brother and business partner. ``You carry on.''

Roeschlaub was among the fourth generation of the Clinton family working in California's restaurant business. The family started in food service in 1888 when her great-grandfather David Harrison Clinton arrived in Los Angeles from Missouri.

Roeschlaub was the daughter of Clifford and Nelda Clinton, who founded Clifton's with $2,000 in 1931 and a mission to feed the hungry, according to the restaurant's Web site.

The restaurant still retains the motto ``Dine Free Unless Delighted.''

Roeschlaub joined the family business full time in 1944, and remained active until her death, visiting the cafeteria at least once a week, Clinton said.

``We were busing dishes from the dining room, cleaning tables, filling water glasses, doing odds and ends,'' he said, recalling the siblings' early days.

At the Brookdale restaurant -- which opened in 1935 -- diners still enjoy down-home favorites such as roast turkey and apple pie amid soaring faux redwoods and rock faces inspired by the Santa Cruz mountains, where founder Clifford Clinton spent his summers.

Clinton said his sister had a rare vitality -- she loved to travel, was a voracious reader, loved films and was an excellent cook who helped refine the restaurant's more than 2,500 recipes for today's palate.

``Not only are we brother and sister, we work well together,'' he said. ``We're close friends and close buddies -- we're buddies at work.''

Clifford and Nelda Clinton retired in 1946 and sold their cafeteria interest to Jean, Don and son Edmond.

They expanded into surrounding suburbs from the late 1950s through the 1970s as business in downtown Los Angeles declined.

Roeschlaub had lived in the Glendale penthouse for about 17 years.

She was living alone over the past year after her husband, Ronald Roeschlaub, died in December, Clinton said.

She had a pacemaker and coped with some ailments, but was otherwise healthy, he said.

``When you're 83, you have a few things,'' he said. ``But she was coping.''

The family became concerned Wednesday when Roeschlaub missed several appointments and her son Bruce C. Davis could not reach her, Clinton said. They alerted the building manager, who discovered Roeschlaub face-down on the floor.

She also is survived by son David J. Davis IV and daughter Diane Bohn.

eugene.tong(at)dailynews.com

(818) 546-3304
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 4, 2006
Words:527
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