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Diner owner died after Obama visit

Published: 7/9/2012

Josephine Harris (Akron Beacon Journal)Josephine “Ann” Harris didn’t know that her hero, President Barack Obama, would be having breakfast at her restaurant until shortly before his motorcade showed up.

Around 8:30 a.m. on Friday, July 6, the small diner, known as Ann’s Place, became the first stop on the second day of President Obama’s bus tour of Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to a news story written by a team of Akron Beacon Journal writers.

“You know it’s great,” Harris, 70, said Friday morning, shortly after Obama left her family-owned restaurant, reporters wrote.

The president had two eggs over easy, bacon, wheat toast, orange juice, water and grits. It was actually his second breakfast of the day (much like the Hobbits in The Lord of the Rings) – his first was salmon and sea bass at the Hilton hotel where he had stayed overnight.

“He treated us like one of the brothers,” [Harris] said. “He hugged all of us and ... got his picture taken with all of us.”

Just a few hours after President Obama left, Harris, who had suffered two heart attacks and a stroke earlier this year, went home, complaining of fatigue and a tingling feeling. She was rushed to Akron General Medical Center, where she died about 11:15 a.m.

The president called Harris’ family that afternoon to express his condolences.

“As a small-business owner, a mother, a sister, a grandmother, a great-grandmother and friend of many throughout the community, Ann led an exceptional life and will be missed by all who knew her,” Greg Schultz, the Ohio director of Obama’s campaign said in an emailed statement. “Ann and her family are in our thoughts and prayers.”

Restaurant patrons described Harris as a nice lady, who made everyone feel like they were more than just a customer. “She treated you like one of the family,” one customer said.

Many celebrities had eaten at Ann’s Place over the last 30 years, Harris’ family said. But the presidential visit was extra special.

Her sister, Frankie Adkins, told reporters, “I’m sure this was her highlight,” she said. “She loved Obama.”

***

This post was contributed by Alana Baranick, a freelance obituary writer. She is the director of the Society of Professional Obituary Writers and chief author of Life on the Death Beat: A Handbook for Obituary Writers.

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