Soul Food Queen Sylvia Woods Remembered in NYC

She was 86 and had been battling Alzheimer's disease, her family said

View Comments (
)
|
Email
|
Print

    NEWSLETTERS

    Sylvia Woods was remembered at her wake today for not only her food at her famed Harlem restaurant but also her warm personality and big heart. Tracie Strahan reports. (Published Tuesday, Jul 24, 2012)

    Sylvia Woods, the founder of the famed Harlem soul food restaurant that bears her name, was remembered Tuesday by her patrons and friends as a warm and welcoming trailblazer who turned her small eatery into a bustling city gem.

    A wake and public service were being held Tuesday at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. Mayor Michael Bloomberg would be among the speakers. Woods died last week at age 86 after dealing with Alzheimer's disease for the past few years.

    Sylvia Woods, Matriarch of Famed Harlem Restaurant, Dies at 86

    [NY] Sylvia Woods, Matriarch of Famed Harlem Restaurant, Dies at 86
    Sylvia Woods, the matriarch of the famed Harlem restaurant that bore her name and a New York City icon, died Thursday at her Westchester home, family members said in a statement.She was 86 and had been battling Alzheimer's disease, her family said.Woods, born in Hemingway, S.C., worked at a restaurant in Harlem for eight years before buying her own restaurant in 1962. The Lenox Avenue restaurant eventually became an institution, attracting a loyal following that ranging from locals to presidents. (Published Thursday, Jul 19, 2012)

    Woods and her husband, Herbert, natives of South Carolina who met as children, started Sylvia's Restaurant in 1962. The restaurant is a Harlem fixture, with tourists and locals coming there for cornbread, ribs, collard greens, fried chicken and other staples of Southern cooking and politicians, including President Barack Obama, making frequent visits while on the campaign trail.

    On Tuesday, mourners filed past an open casket. She was laid out in a cream-colored brocade suit. The altar was adorned with white flowers: roses, orchids and calla lilies.

    "She was our shining start," said Audrey Quintano, 53, who worked for Woods as her executive catering chef in the 1990s and is now preparing to open her own restaurant.

    Quintano said that "Miss Sylvia" was her mentor and that Herbert and Sylvia Woods provided a wonderful example of a happy marriage.

    "He would act as if he had just met her and he was 19," Quintano said. "They were the perfect couple."

    Paul George, 63, a retired city worker who lives in the neighborhood, said Woods gave out free food to the community every Monday.

    "She was a wonderful, wonderful woman, and she was a woman of God," he said.

    Yvonne Maddox, a frequent customer and neighborhood resident, said, "I've known her 17 years. She inspired all of us, especially women. Running a business must not have been easy for a black lady 50 years ago and at the same time raising a beautiful family."

    From its start as a restaurant, Sylvia's has grown to include multiple cookbooks and a nationwide line of food products. The restaurant marked its 50th anniversary in August. Woods officially stepped down from running the restaurant when she was 80, leaving it in the hands of her children and grandchildren. Herbert Woods died in 2001.

    Another service is scheduled for Wednesday at Grace Baptist Church in Mount Vernon, where Woods lived.t Church in Mount Vernon, where Woods lived.

     

    Get the latest from NBC 4 New York anytime, anywhere. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Get our apps here and sign up for email newsletters here. Get breaking news delivered right to your phone -- just text NYBREAKING to 639710. For more info, text HELP. To end, text STOP. Message and data rates may apply.