Gus Johnson’s Barbeque Palace was the hub of Whiskey Springs, a small town suffering through the recession. The Palace was prospering despite the hard times. It was the place where locals could gather and enjoy an inexpensive respite from their economic troubles.
The secret to Gus’s success was no miracle. He just took pride in providing quality at a fair price in a warm and friendly atmosphere.
Gus routinely told friends, “If you walk in the door, smell the aroma of my slow cooked ribs and homemade baked beans, you’ll stay for a meal.”
His home cooked barbeque concoctions were always sweet, tangy, moist and tender. His secret sauce was a special weapon which others tried to copy without success. The only word to describe his food was irresistible.
But he had another trick up his sleeve. Gus’s restaurant also catered large and small barbeque cookouts for groups of all sizes in a three county region. His success was also attributed to his generosity; he was the major benefactor for the local food bank.
Gus never turned away anyone who came to his door hungry. He knew that God would reward him many times over for his good works.
Suddenly, while closing one night, Gus suffered a fatal heart attack. He was found dead on site by police after his wife, Mary, reported him missing.
His attorney and best friend, John Fallon, was called to inform Mary. He knew them both well.
Finding lights on in the wee hours, he knew Mary was worried. As she answered his knock, John said, “Mary, I have horrible news. Gus was found dead at The Palace of an apparent heart attack. My Suzy’s on her way here now.”
Mary was teary but composed and said, “I knew something was wrong. At least Gus died doing what he loved. The restaurant was his joy and I don’t know what I’ll do. Will you help me figure things out?
John hugged her and said, “Of course, Mary. First, I’ll contact the funeral home for you and help you with arrangements. Then we’ll figure out the business.”
Suzy, John’s wife, arrived to comfort Mary. John said he would return after some quick business.
He made an appointment with the funeral home for later in the day and then got to work on The Palace. First, he called George Morris, Gus’s right hand man, and told him to open for business as usual but there would be a temporary closure when arrangements were complete. Then he called Sam Willard, Gus’s business accountant, and asked him to come over.
While they were meeting, Mary’s brother, Bill Sampson, dropped by. He knew John was her attorney and he worried about her finances. He was invited to join them.
They discussed and began devising a plan for The Palace going forward. John said, “I’ll handle legal matters and we’ll take care of George. We need him as the hands on food service honcho. We’ll keep him on salary and offer a bonus for exceptional results. What do you think?”
“Great”, said Sam, “and I’ll teach Mary how to handle the bookkeeping and serve as her mentor.” Sam turned to Bill and said, “Would you be the quarterly financial review representative. I need a go between with Mary to validate regular assessments.”
Bill said, “Of course, Mary will like that. We’ve always been close.” With emotion showing, he said, “Guys, what a great memorial.”
Things were settled. John would talk with Mary in a week after the funeral and personal quiet time.
A week later, John, accompanied by Suzy, called on Mary and told her about the plan. He said, “You won’t have to sell at a loss and you’ll have a steady income. Gus would want that. The net profits after expenses will be available for your retirement. And George will be taken care of. What do you think?”
Mary was ecstatic, saying, “I love it. Gus always wanted me there. It’ll keep me busy.”
Inviting them to stay for coffee, she hugged Suzy, saying, “You’re lucky to have this fine man.”
Suzy beamed, hugged her, and said, “We’re both lucky he’s around.”
In just a few days it was finalized. The Barbeque Palace lived on in its fine tradition and the people of Whiskey Springs retained their social hub.
And somewhere in Heaven above, Gus Johnson beamed. His memory lived on in his secret sauce, guarded by his one true love, his Mary.
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