Shocked sadness reverberated around town last week with the news of Marti Schimmel’s death. Her passion for food and for people made her an icon of the local restaurant scene and a caring and entertaining friend, whose presence lit up gatherings and whose solace buoyed others at low points. She refused to sell out or be pressured out of her Nomaltown location, in spite of adjacent developments, and her Marti’s at Midday stood out as an artifact of “our” Athens.
Marti’s demise, at a time when all her cohort are scrambling to keep their businesses alive, seemed to personify the turmoil and uncertainty gripping our beloved café society.
Most of all, Marti’s death came as devastating news to the many people who have loved her throughout her long tenure in Athens. An outpouring of anguish lit up social media, and messages flew among friends passing the news, trying to comfort.
Marti Schimmel embodied fellow-feeling and food, and with both she nurtured her friends and her community. In whatever form Athens survives the present scourge, we will be lessened by the loss of one who helped make us who we are.
Here are comments from just a few of her many friends.
Amy Flurry: “Marti was a force for positivity and good, touching lives everywhere in the kindest small gestures and sweeping bold acts, too, that none of us seemed equipped to match. She was unfailingly generous to Athens and to so many non-profits. She took chances on people because she saw the best in them. May the light that she was here with us shine on in all of us who knew and loved her.”
Marianne May Causey: “Marti Schimmel truly had one of the biggest, most generous and loving hearts of any human I have ever known. She was a bright and radiant light. My heart breaks that the world seemed to be too much with her. My prayer is that she has found a place of everlasting peace.”
Catherine Terrell Austin: “Marti Schimmel was a sparkling river with a rapid current. I am so grateful to have been repeatedly swept up by her for the past 20 years. As [daughter] Bryan said today: ‘She gave our family so much love.’ She did. She did. She did. She is irreplaceable.”
Dave Shearon: “Not sure when we will be able to honor her, thank her, celebrate her for all that she meant to us; all that she did for us; all the laughs, adventures, professional and personal trials and tribulations that we shared during the ‘magic years’ that just would not have happened without her. It is inconceivable right now to reminisce about such great, fun, important parts of our lives without Marti leading the story off, or chiming in with her very funny missing details or ‘behind the scenes’ background-perspective/gossip. We will find the time, I hope. It’s just not now. Way, way too soon in any of our lifetimes. Oh my darling…”
Hillary Brown: “Hearing the news of Marti’s death was heartbreaking. Restaurants aren’t just places to eat—your kitchen can serve just as well in many cases. What they are is places to build community, and Marti was incredible at that. Her generosity in making her space a welcoming one for everyone in Athens and with which she freely donated food to folks who needed it was amazing. Seeing the front of her restaurant covered with flowers demonstrated just how much she was loved in return.”
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