One afternoon I had the chance to play the piano in the dining room of what was then called Athens Rehab and Senior Care, located across from the Athens-Limestone Hospital. Every other month, for over five years, I have had the great privilege of interviewing senior citizens who were residents of the facility. On this particular day, I had some time to kill, which is rare, and I chose to use the time to play some worship music and enjoy my Maker.
It wasn’t long before a slight woman with mocha skin, large and tender chocolate-colored eyes, and one of the gentlest voices I have ever heard came and stood behind me to listen. Eventually I looked up, and the rest, as they say, was history. We had one of those connections that was instant and deep, and whenever we would bump into each other while we were out and about, it was like meeting a long-lost friend or family member.
She was a Katrina refugee and had come to Athens to start over. She owned her own catering business called Arabella’s, and she could have just about been the Cake Boss. She was patient and painstaking, and her cakes were a work of art.
She taught classes on cake decorating at the Athens State University Center for Lifelong Learning, and as Jackie Warner mentioned in her article, Tammy was the Resident New Orleans Chef at the Bridge, the wonderful place on Hine Street that is owned by the Warners, and dedicated to building our community.
One time Tammy and I catered a dinner for a Juice Plus event, and we had some challenges, that if overcome, would serve to make the meal memorable. One was that we had a woman attending who had Celiac disease so badly that if she came in contact with any gluten whatsoever, she would have to be hospitalized. The other was the goal to make a tasty catered meal with linens and such for $10 a head. Because of Tammy’s generosity and the fact that we could work so well together, we were able to do it, and the sponsors of the event were greatly pleased.
Tammy had a dream, and that was to teach cake and cupcake decorating in the projects with the hope of teaching a trade that could result in owning a business. Frosting would change the future.
When her fellow Katrina refugee and Athens Now cooking columnist Shelley Underhill found herself in need of help with her column while she cared for elderly relatives, Tammy stepped up. She was not at all comfortable with technology, and used the Internet as little as possible; so we used to meet in the beautiful, sunny breakroom at the new library, and she would hand me her recipe written in long hand, with detailed instructions designed to make it just right. My job was to get it converted into a word document and get it to Production, and make sure the pictures she had taken would work.
Tammy’s passing on November 8th shocked and saddened us all, and this paper won’t be the same without her. She has been returned to her beloved Louisiana, and I know that because she was a woman of faith, her “soul is rested,” as Mother Pollard used to say. We will see you soon, sweet girl, and just know that you are sorely missed.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner