Restaurant’s Christmas tree honors community service leader

EAST MANATEE — A Christmas tree at Terrace Beach Cafe is unlike any other in Manatee County.

It stands in honor of Mary DeLazzer, known for her generosity and community service as the longtime manager of the Our Daily Bread of Bradenton soup kitchen on 14th Street West. The 77-year-old was killed Nov. 28 after her car was rear-ended by an allegedly drunken driver at State Road 70 and 30th Street East who now faces a DUI manslaughter charge.

The 5-foot Christmas tree stands next to the checkout counter, decorated with ornaments signed with written messages of condolences, sympathy and support for the DeLazzer family.

The tree is also raising money for Our Daily Bread. Dave Valone, co-operator of the cafe, has pledged $1 to Our Daily Bread for each ornament a customer hangs on the tree.

Or make that trees. With close to 500 ornaments already donated, Valone is putting up another tree.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Valone, “Mrs. DeLazzer was a wonderful person.”

The DeLazzer family stopped in the small cafe at 5911 S.R. 70 E. on a regular basis and some called her an “angel” or the “Mother Teresa” of the soup kitchen, where she served about 300 each day.

“When the tragedy hit, we knew we wanted to do something,” Valone said.

Valone and his fiancee, Holli Harden, decided to find a way to make the Christmas tree they display each year a remembrance for DeLazzer and a way to give back to the community as she did.

“The customers are so excited about it,” Harden said. “They want to be a part of this.”

Valone isn’t concerned about the amount that will come out of the restaurant’s budget if the ornaments tally up to $1,000 or more.

“I don’t want to go with less than $1,000,” Valone said.

Faust DeLazzer, Mary’s son, learned of Terrace Beach Cafe’s efforts to honor his mother when a reporter contacted him Wednesday.

“That’s very touching,” DeLazzer said. “When I tell my brothers and sisters they will be touched.”

DeLazzer, a teacher at Lakewood Ranch High School, said his mother and his family visited Terrace Beach Cafe regularly for breakfast on the weekends.

“They have the best biscuits and gravy in the state,” DeLazzer said.

And it wasn’t uncommon for Mary to spot a familiar face while dining there.

“There was always one or two people she knew,” he said.