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Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010 07:33 am

‘He made sure everyone who ate at the restaurant was satisfied.’

ALBERT BOYD March 1, 1922 – Nov. 23, 2010

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For years Albert Boyd floated from table to table laughing and joking as he greeted diners at Boyd’s Family Style Restaurant. After the first visit, customers quickly learned that Boyd’s warmth and humor were just as pleasing and satisfying as the smothered pork chops, fried chicken, collard greens and other soul food dishes served at the restaurant that Boyd and his wife, Annie, opened in 1987.

Though the restaurant was Annie’s brainchild, Boyd, with his sense of humor and genuine care and concern for everyone who walked through the door, made patrons feel at home. “He didn’t cook. His role was more like public relations. He greeted and chatted with people. And he did a lot of delegating,” laughed Annie, who was married to Boyd for 50 years. “He made sure that everyone who came and ate there was satisfied.”

“He never met a stranger,” continued Annie. “He had a way of making people feel like they were part of the family. He loved people and people loved him. He didn’t forget a face, and most people never forgot him.”

On Nov. 29 and 30, hundreds of family members and friends filed through St. Patrick’s Catholic Church to bid goodbye to a man who singlehandedly put a smile on many faces. “While we often witnessed him helping others, we had no idea just how many lives he actually touched until he passed,” said Valerie Stoner, Boyd’s daughter. “Guys who I went to school with told me how my dad helped them in one way or another. He was always helping people get on their feet. If someone needed help with something, and he couldn’t do it himself, he found someone who could. That’s just the kind of person he was.”

Born in Jefferson City, Mo., on March 1, 1922, Boyd moved to Springfield as a small child. But his life was not always easy. He did not have a relationship with his father. And his mother was killed in a car accident when he was a young boy. As a result, he was raised by several different people in the community. While some would let such hard beginnings hold them back, Boyd emerged with a heart of gold and a willingness to give his children what he didn’t have – a loving father who wanted the best for his children. And he succeeded by doing what he taught his children and other young people to do in tough times – persevere. “He always told us that you don’t give up. If you fall, you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and do better the next time,” said Stoner.

Before opening Boyd’s Family Style Restaurant, Boyd worked at Henry Nelch and Son for 41 years. At his funeral, a lot of people told Annie, Stoner and Boyd’s other siblings how he often stayed after hours showing them how to properly pour and spread concrete, even when it wasn’t his responsibility to do so. “My dad was always big on not just telling someone how to do something, but he actually showed you,” said Stoner

They also learned of several incidents of racism Boyd faced in the community. And whether he was dealing with Nelch customers who did not want a black man to pour their concrete or businesses that were less than welcoming of African Americans, Boyd “never let things like that stop him,” said Annie. He managed to break through the discrimination and emerge with new friends.

 “We all could learn a lot from him,” Annie told IT. “He knew how to love and how to care for people. He was accepting of people just as they were. He didn’t care who you were.”

While Boyd remained strong and fun loving until he died on Nov. 23, the last eight years were riddled with health problems. In 2002, Boyd became ill during a family reunion in Texas. Just as he did while working at Nelch – he only missed one day of work in 41 years – Boyd pushed himself and stayed at the reunion.

By the time the family made the drive back to Springfield, Boyd, who only complained of a cough, had suffered a heart attack. “I was just beside myself because I had never seen him down,” said Stoner. In the past two years, Boyd’s health significantly deteriorated, as he battled diabetes, a blood disease, and additional heart problems. Meanwhile, Boyd’s Family Style Restaurant at 1831 S. Grand Ave. East was closed in October due to a fire.

Whether you knew Boyd from his days at the restaurant, his many years at Nelch, or from merely seeing him about town, one thing is very clear. In his 88 years, Boyd made a huge impact on many souls. And though his ray of sunshine has dimmed, his family and friends will forever remember him as a kind, fun-loving man of integrity, who loved his family and cherished his many friends.

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