DADE CITY — Tami Lowery, owner of Tami’s Country Kitchen in Dade City, died Thursday morning after a battle with lung cancer. She was 53.
Lowery bought the small, but popular restaurant at 14127 U.S. 98 Bypass on Feb. 19, 1997.
Lowery’s daughter Kayci Smith said that although her mother’s death was not unanticipated, it did come sooner than expected, as Lowery had been doing well and gaining weight.
Lowery was diagnosed with cancer last year — on the Monday before Thanksgiving — and stopped working at the restaurant in December.
The restaurant was called Maple Leaf when Lowery was hired to work there and had gone through several hands before she bought it. Including her years of ownership, she worked there for 27 years.
During her youth, Smith worked at the restaurant with her mom.
“Mom taught us to be independent and support ourselves,” she recalled.
Smith said she will continue, with the help of other family members, to keep the restaurant open.
During her time at the restaurant, Lowery had developed loyal diners who had become like family.
“My mom was a jokester,” Smith said. “She did anything to make you laugh. She played pranks on people.”
Bob Larkin has been a customer at that restaurant since 1986 and has seen it go through its many owners. Lowery was a favorite.
“I broke Tami in,” he said. “Tami was a unique person with a great personality; she was always trying to make people laugh and smile. She had a strange sense of humor.” Those who knew her would know what he meant, he added.
Larkin agrees that she was a practical joker, although he couldn’t think of one played on him that he wanted in print.
“It was all in fun,” he said. “And she went for shock appeal. She was shock and awe for sure.” He especially liked a sign in the restaurant that said “Today’s Menu is Take It Or Leave It.”
Lowery had a soft and generous side as well, Larkin said.
She would always feed someone who came in the restaurant hungry, he said.
“She had a great heart,” he added. “I’ll just tell you that just about everybody loved her.”
Although she had mostly secluded herself while she received treatments, Lowery would sometimes stop in the restaurant.
“She’d stop in and boss us around,” Smith chuckled, “She’d say ‘You’re not doing that right.’ ”
Lowery is survived by her husband, Doug, and four children: Smith, Matt Lowery, both of Dade City, Nikki Gold of Ridge Manor and Brandy McCollum of Bedford, Texas.
There will be a viewing for Lowery at Hodges Family Funeral Home, 11441 U.S. 301, from 4 to 6 p.m. on Monday. The viewing will be followed by a memorial service from 6 to 7 p.m.
“She wanted to be celebrated, not mourned,” Smith said.