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Debby Missimi enjoyed serving people, whether it was at her parents' restaurant in Kent where she grew up, or as head of Kent Social Services and the Center of Hope in Ravenna, where she worked for a decade before taking ill.
The hot meal and pantry programs were more than food for the body, they were food for the soul, she once said. "We believe very much that we're not here only to provide the client with food. We believe we are here also to cater to their dignity."
People who came in for a hot meal found a willing listener and a friendly smile.
Miss Missimi, 66, died Tuesday after three years of impaired health. She was well known in the Kent and Ravenna communities. She retired in 2010 as food service director for Family & Community Services, Inc., overseeing both the Center of Hope and Kent Social Services food programs.
She grew up in her parents' restaurant at 1313 W. Main St. in Kent. The family lived above the dining area. She eventually managed the restaurant, which was the oldest family restaurant in Kent when it closed in 2003. She then went to work at F&CS.
Mark Frisone, F&CS executive director, said he'd "always been impressed with her community mindedness when she was running the restaurant.
"I tried to recruit her for years, and she was always dedicated to her family and the restaurant. Given her background in food, I knew what a great asset she would be for the community," he said.
Miss Missimi started work at the Center of Hope in Ravenna in January 2000, taking over as director when Phil Marcin left for new duties at Family and Community Services Inc. At the same time, Daryle Fullum retired after four years as assistant director of the Center. Miss Missimi later became director of food services for F&CS, managing both the Center of Hope and Kent Social Services' meal program.
Fullum said she and Miss Missimi "were good friends and good workers." Fullum said that both "were trained in the Sister Jordan School" of social service. Sister Jordan Haddad was the nun who founded the Center of Hope. "She taught us how to help others and not to stand in judgment," she recalled.
Miss Missimi also honored her family legacy of reaching out to help in the community, she said. In 1988, her parents, Tony and Elizabeth Missimi, started hosting the annual Brunch Bunch Thanksgiving morning charity auction. Miss Missimi and her brother, Dennis, carried on the tradition after their parents died.
She "was a good servant to the community and always thinking for the common good of the community," Fullum said Tuesday. "I admired her for her commitment. She was kind of like Sister Jordan -- committed to helping others that are less fortunate than some. It was an honor to work with her."
Frisone said Miss Missimi was quite unassuming but quite powerful in her own way. "People were attracted to her. They knew she truly cared," he said.
Miss Missimi knew that local residents would respond when asked to help others. If the supply of turkeys for the annual Thanksgiving food boxes ran low, she would pick up the phone and make a few calls. She was never disappointed in the response.
"She worked very, very hard. She was no 9-to-5er, that's for sure. She was not going to close the door until every last client was seen. It was in the family makeup. She certainly made an impact in this county," Frisone said.
Miss Missimi is survived by her brother Dennis and his wife Sally, their daughter Holly and her husband Adam Snyder, and their son, Tyler Snyder.
A Celebration of Life Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Feb. 2 at the Kent State University Parish Newman Center, 1424 Horning Road, with a reception to follow for family and friends.
Dennis Missimi said of his sister, "she wouldn't want to draw attention to herself for all she's done for the community as a whole. She truly gave from her heart, no matter who you were. If there was a need she did all she could to help those in need. She will be missed by the community as a whole and by me as her brother."
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the annual Thanksgiving Brunch Bunch at either the Ravenna or Kent locations of Portage Community Bank, or to the Kent State University Newman Center.