Penny Goethe was almost done with preparing the Thanksgiving feast.
Twenty turkeys for 300 at Our Daily Bread soup kitchen. Cranberry sauce, green beans, mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potatoes and yams.
A lot of cooking for the first-year kitchen manager, her assistant and four volunteers.
Goethe had a little help from above, too.
She could hear Mary DeLazzer say, “It needs a little more garlic.”
“Mary liked garlic on everything,” said the 45-year-old, thinking of her late predecessor.
It’s something Goethe does daily.
Mary DeLazzer has been gone almost a year, killed on her way to work at Our Daily Bread by a drunk driver early the morning of Nov. 28.
The day after Thanksgiving.
What a bittersweet anniversary.
Last month, Julissa Martinez, 21, pleaded guilty and faces at least four years in prison for DUI manslaughter.
In Mary’s memory, Mayor Wayne Poston declared November Homelessness and Hunger Month.
“She cared so much,” Goethe said. “It’s sad, but it was the only way Mary would’ve left this place, stop doing what she was doing. To just be gone.”
Mary DeLazzer, 77, was the heart and soul of the soup kitchen, doling out tough love and tenderness its past two decades on 14th Street West.
“She had a big bark, but a big heart,” said Jack Manson, a former board member and volunteer. “She’d throw somebody out, then feed them around back.”
The sense of loss was compounded when, four months after Mary’s death, Our Daily Bread moved as planned to 17th Avenue West, joining the Bill Galvano One Stop Center, the anchor for the Community Coalition on Homelessness.
That it had more space and more tools than the old place — i.e., two walk-in freezers, two walk-in refrigerators — didn’t seem fair.
Mary would’ve loved the new digs.
Twenty turkeys with all the fixins took three weeks at 14th Street.
Now it takes one.
“So many new appliances for her to experiment with,” Goethe said. “It’s hard to know they built this brand new kitchen and she never got to work in it.”
Yet her spirit is ever present.
Mary’s Kitchen, reads the sign over a door.
“She’s here,” said volunteer Paul Goodrich.
“Every day,” said administrator Robert Eikill.
Especially Thanksgiving, observed at Our Daily Bread the Saturday before the holiday.
Mary made sure it was as traditional as possible for the needy.
“So everybody could have a meal like they can enjoy with their family. Like what you’d think of as a kid, going to grandma’s house for that huge meal, Goethe said.
“It connects them to something good. Something different from the rest of the year. It gives them a sense things are going to be OK.
“That’s what Mary wanted.”
Just remember the garlic.
Mannix About Manatee, by local columnist Vin Mannix, is about people and issues in Manatee County. Please call Vin Mannix at 745-7055, write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, FL 34206 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include a phone number for verification.