Fort Myers’ Mama Williams celebrated for 40 years at Farmers Market

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FORT MYERS, Fla. – Not one finger will lift to help Libby “Mama” Williams prepare meals at Farmers Market Restaurant, one of the city’s oldest restaurants.

The 84-year-old woman has walked through the doors of the Southern-style diner on Edison Avenue since 1976. Her longevity was cause for celebration Tuesday at the restaurant where a sign that read “Miss Libby is Celebrating 40 Years (and counting) hung.”

Farmers Market Restaurant precedes Mama William’s employment by less than 20 years. She thanks God everyday for getting her through four decades in its kitchen.

“I had God on my side. The good Lord was with me,” Mama Williams said.”I had to get up every morning and pray. I had to pray before I unlocked those doors. I had to pray.”

Williams cooks every Monday and Tuesday after a brief retirement stint in 2008. Farmers Marker owner, Betsy Barnwell, asked her to return because customers were disappointed in her absence.

Williams, with her 40 years of memories and heart full of laughter, said she didn’t mind.

“I love it. I love it. I just love cooking,” she said. “I’m going to do it until the good Lord says ‘Nope, that’s enough.”

mama williams farmers randy hendersonBarnwell said Mama William’s contributions to her restaurant have been more legendary than memorable service. Her hard work brings her into work before the sun rises and out of the doors well after it sets. The cook has added to the menu, too.

“(She) comes in at 4: 30 a.m. and works until 11 cooking everything on Mondays and Tuesdays. Won’t let anyone help or carry pots and pans,” Barnwell said. “I just want her name to live on, her legacy to live on. That’s why we’re doing this.”

She was honored for her dedication and service with a key to Fort Myers at her anniversary party on Tuesday at Farmers Restaurant. Mayor Randy Henderson was at the celebration and presented her the key with a gentle kiss on her cheek.

Mama Williams said the recognition was a surprise.

“I feel so honored because I didn’t know they cared,” she said. “I thought they were just doing that because I was cooking but the honor — the honor makes me feel good,” she said, barely finishing her sentence before greeting a customer.

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