Perkins Family Restaurant named its new 28-seat dining addition after James Carter, a former employee who left an impression on all those who worked with him.
Until the day he died, James Carter was always on time for work.
That's one of the attributes his Perkins Family Restaurant co-workers remember about him. They also remember his kindness.
"Every time I came in, he smiled at me," Bree Diedwardo, a co-worker, said.
On Tuesday, Perkins , 1711 W. 23rd St. dedicated its newest dining room to Carter's memory, two years after his death. Carter's sister Carol Lyles, Sedalia, Mo., cut the two red ribbons across the door to the new addition -- the James "Chop" Carter room -- and sat with more than 20 members of Carter's family to enjoy dinner on the house.
Lyles said she had been surprised when she was called about the dedication.
"Not a lot of people would do this for an employee," Carter's niece, Lillian Carter, said.
The dinner for Carter's family gave them a chance to remember "Chop" -- his snappy dressing and sweet nature.
"He was just a beautiful person," said his cousin Lester Boggs, Lawrence. "We surely miss him. ... It's even hard to come by here, sometimes."
Carter wasn't just any employee, according to co-workers. Most days, he walked to work -- and was there by 8 a.m.
"He was grumpy sometimes, but he was always on time," said Evan Robinson, associate manager at the restaurant.
Except for one day in March 1997. Carter didn't show up for work at all. By midmorning, co-workers called his family to check on him.
Carter had suffered a heart attack in his sleep and March 10, 1997. He was 53.
Carter had worked at the Lawrence restaurant for 10 years, starting as a dishwasher. When Robinson started as the food production manager at Perkins, he said, Carter was doing food preparation. He was dependable.
"He was kind of like the anchor that held me together," Robinson said. "That was one part I didn't have to worry about."
Gloria Sturm worked with Carter for almost a decade.
"He took great pride in doing the simplest things," she said. "... When he didn't show up for work that day, everybody knew something was wrong. He was never even two minutes late."
A plaque and picture will memorialize Carter at the entrance to the dining room, which seats 28 and will be used during busy days and for reservations and large groups.
The room addition had been planned for more than a year. "Ever since we started ... I suggested we call it the James Carter room," Robinson said. The entire staff and the restaurant's owner agreed.
"I think he deserved it," Boggs said.
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