Pa. restaurateur Edward Williamson

Posted: February 02, 2010

Edward J. Williamson, 64, who inherited and helped expand his family's restaurants in the Philadelphia suburbs, died of melanoma Friday at his Rosemont home.

Mr. Williamson's father, Joseph A. Williamson Sr., opened the family's first restaurant in 1943 in Jenkintown. Like all but one of its successors, it was named simply Williamson's.

Mr. Williamson's brother James said their father opened the second restaurant in 1947, in Narberth; the third at the Presidential, an apartment building on City Avenue in Philadelphia, in 1957; and one in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in 1973.

James Williamson said that Edward, along with their brothers Joseph A. Jr., Richard, and Harry, who died in 2005, shared in running the family operations.

"My brothers and I opened the one on top of the GSB Building in 1961," in Bala Cynwyd, he said, one in Horsham in 1978, and "one in Exton in 1996, called the Springdale Cafe."

In 1993, he said, the brothers opened "a contract feeding company" called Williamson Hospitality, in Blue Bell, that fed about 40 locations such as private high schools and colleges.

"Eddie was V.P. of all the companies," James Williamson said, but "we did all things together."

Today, James Williamson said, the only remaining Williamson operations are the Horsham restaurant and Williamson Catering, begun in 1963 and still run out of Willow Grove.

Born in Newportville, Bucks County, Mr. Williamson graduated from the Oratory Preparatory School in Summit, N.J., in 1962.

He learned the family business early.

"Even though in grammar school," James Williamson said, "he went to work on the weekends and worked in the back kitchens or dish machines.

"We all peeled potatoes and washed the dishes. As you got older, you were moved up."

Mr. Williamson was a member of the Union League and, his brother said, established and directed annual golf outings in the late 1980s and early 1990s at Philmont Country Club, Eagle Lodge, and others to benefit the Special Olympics.

Besides his three surviving brothers, Mr. Williamson is survived by his wife, Adell; sons Stephen, Gregory, Nathaniel, and Ryan; daughters Jennifer Dolente and Tara Coates; three sisters; and 16 grandchildren.

Visitation is from 9 to 10:45 a.m. Thursday at St. John Neumann Roman Catholic Church, 380 Highland Avenue, Bryn Mawr, followed by an 11 a.m. Funeral Mass there. Burial will take place later.

Contact staff writer Walter F. Naedele at 215-854-5607 or wnaedele@phillynews.com.

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