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The Neighborhood remembers Don Roberts
The Neighborhood remembers Don Roberts
October 16, 2010
Compiled by Mary Pechar
Tribune photo/Fred Poese
(Feb. 20, 1960-Oct. 5, 2010)
Don E. Roberts, 50, of Lee’s Summit, MO, passed away October 5, 2010 and while you can never quantify the impact of such a loss on one’s family, Don’s passing has impacted an entire sub-culture of the community. Owner of Neighbor's Café, Don, in the minds of employees, friends and customers WAS Neighbor's Café.
“As a regular of the ‘round table,‘ Neighbor’s was the right name for Don Roberts’ restaurant. Don would greet you with a smile, tall tale or a good joke. His talent was food and his purpose to make everyone feel at home and welcome. I’m glad to have known Don and will surely miss him.” –Rod Draayer, Round-Table Regular
“Neighbor's Café has been an anchor for Downtown Lee’s Summit for many years, and its success has a lot to do with Don’s passion and hard work. Don will be missed by hundreds of loyal customers and his Downtown family.”
–Jeanine Rann, Executive Director, Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street, Inc.
Jack Combs expressed the common feelings in a poem he wrote in Don’s honor.
“I walked into Neighbor’s Cafe, went through the door, It just wasn’t the same as it had been before…..But memories help us to carry on, As long as there is Neighbor’s, there is Don.
”Regular Kathy Smith added. “ Don was passionate about his restaurant…Neighbor's is a “hang-out” for a variety of groups…Customers coming to Neighbor's after hearing the news of Don’s death, came in and hugged each other and the wait staff. I know his spirit will always be hanging round the kitchen to make sure that the gravy is hot and the cinnamon rolls fresh.”
Don’s family remembers him as full of life, smiles, laughter and joy and passion. His joy included his three beautiful children, Alex, Danielle and Bailey and grandson, Carmine.
Dianne Roberts, Don’s step-mother talked about his passion, “He started out working at Stephenson’s in Independence where he fell in love with the restaurant business. He worked for Plaza III, The Bristol, Houilan’s, The Grand Fallom, KC Masterpiece and Marriott Foods. One of Don’s own menu item creations still remains on the menu today at V’s Restaurante, the Steak Dominico. While working at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand he enjoyed working closely with Dick Clark himself. ”Don’s dad Phil had worked with Don’s best buddy, brother Larry for about 12 years as pipefitters. After retiring, Phil decided to give working with Don a whirl and in 2000 Don was able to realize his dream and open his own restaurant–Neighbor's Cafe. Don prided himself in making his guests feel like friends, thus the name Neighbor's Cafe. He loved to make a kid smile and talk races and football with his guests. He was always proud of his staff and especially their Best Diner in KC award... He credited that honor and success to the teamwork they all put forth.
That teamwork and neighborhood spirit comes through strongly in the words written by the wait staff.
Always, Kristen & Mackenzie….. Neighbor's Café
“It’s early on a Sunday morning and I can hear your voice yelling from the window…girls!!!! And in my head we all come running.. There you stand with that look we all know and that smile telling us you’re working entirely too hard today! The restaurant was truly your dream come true. A dining room full of mouths to feed and all of us, your employees, a staff of people who love the job that they go to every day, knowing that we are blessed to have a boss who always had our best interest at heart. I can say for myself and everyone else who works there that we are all a family, you laid the foundation for a family atmosphere, got it up and running and now instead of being here to call us when we are running late to ask “are you coming to play restaurant today?” or listening to us gripe about the little things and say “carried away” or when we forget who’s in charge as I know I often did, having you there to say “walk outside and take a look at that sign…does it have your name on it?” Best of all is the number of people you actually walked outside to show the sign to. Now we only have you forever in our hearts. You have created lasting memories with each of us and individually touched our lives in your own little way. …..was that we are surrounded by people with such conflicting personalities but yet the same common denominator “our love for you.”
Neighbor's Café is Don Roberts but it is also the people he trusted and trained to keep the business moving. Our promise to you is to continue to do our best and give our all to continue making your dream come true. We have customers that we love and that love us. These customers loved you. I know you are watching us right now and I hope it puts your heart at peace to know you were so amazing and so loved.”
Don’s joy was traveling with his wife Sheryl and they visited many beautiful places including Europe, Mexico and the Caribbean. He was a proud supporter of Salvation Army, March of Dimes/Bikers for Babies and Breast Cancer Survivors, his sister Traci is a breast cancer survivor.
The Neighborhood won’t forget you Don, nor will it be quite the same without you.
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