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Cali Owings, Published July 05 2013

Kroll's lady of ‘Sit down and eat!’ duo dies at 84

CHISAGO CITY, Minn. — Patricia “Pat” Sondrall, known for her role in the original Kroll’s Diner “Sit down and eat!” commercials and involvement in the Fargo-Moorhead arts community, died here Sunday. She was 84.

For more than a decade, Sondrall and Clara Hedin starred in the German and American diner’s commercials as two sassy German grandmas who ordered customers to “sit down and eat.”

They made more than 20 commercials beginning in 2000. A regional search for Sondrall’s replacement was launched in 2011.

Her younger sister Eva Kate Hanson, a retired teacher in Chisago City, said she loved doing the commercials.

As a substitute teacher in the area, Hanson said students would recognize Sondrall from the commercials and ask her to do the line in class.

“She’d say, ‘As long as you sit down and listen, right before the bell the rings I will say it for you,’ ” Hanson said.

Sondrall was a talented singer, actress and musician long before the Kroll’s Diner commercials.

Growing up, Hanson recalled their father waiting up for her sister to return home at night. When she got in, she wouldn’t say anything but go straight to the piano and play a few notes to let him know she was home before heading to her room.

While Sondrall was well-known throughout the area for her work in the Kroll’s Diner commercials, she was also heavily involved in local theater and music.

Bette Hildebrand met Sondrall during an audition for the Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre’s Silver Follies, a theater program for area seniors. The two became “instant friends.”

The pair went on to direct the program’s productions together and started an outreach program where they performed at assisted living centers and other community functions.

“We just hit it off. I was good at writing and she was good at directing, we just complemented each other so well,” Hildebrand said.

She also said Sondrall was an enabler. When someone would join the Silver Follies with the intention of sewing or doing makeup for the productions, Sondrall could often turn them into the stars of the shows.

“She really pushed them to bring out talent that they never thought they had,” Hildebrand said.

Sondrall and her husband, Maurice, both taught in Chicago for 41 years. Maurice Sondrall died in 1990. Pat retired and returned to Fargo shortly after. She was a substitute teacher and also gave voice and piano lessons in addition to her work on the Kroll’s Diner commercials.

She moved to Chisago in 2005 because of poor health and to be closer to her sister, 11 years her junior.

A great lover of music, Sondrall continued to play piano for church services in her assisted living community up until two weeks before she died.

“She was in pain, but her music sustained her through all that,” Hanson said.

A funeral service is planned Wednesday at 11 a.m. at Faith Lutheran Church in West Fargo.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Cali Owings at (701) 241-5599