Remembering Jill Mackin
Even if you didn’t know Jill Mackin, you knew her cooking if you ever had lunch at The Floyd Country Store.
She was the heart and soul of the store’s menu. As kitchen manager, she personally cooked many of the selections — many based on her recipes.
Jill knew customer’s preferences and took the extra time to create selections she felt would serve the store’s loyal eaters. She knew I hated chili with beans so a separate batch without the dreaded stuff, labeled “Doug’s chili” would sit in the fridge during the winter months, waiting for my regular visits to consume bowl after bowl.
She greeted all country store visitors with a smile, knew regulars by name and offered samples to newcomers. Jill Mackin was a major part of the heart and soul of the Country Store.
Jill and her daughter, Tamara Rose, came to Floyd from Wisconsin. They were a close knit mother and daughter. Jill managed the kitchen at the Country Store. Tamara served diners at restaurants, working her way through college. Mother talked proudly of daughter and her grandson.
At 59, Jill found the pace of working most of the day on her feet in a hot kitchen hard on her health. Her doctor told her to slow down, but that wasn’t Jill Mackin’s style. Recently, at the country store, we talked about the health problems that we face late in life.
“I don’t like being told I can’t do something,” she said. “It’s not my way.”
Tuesday afternoon, after a long day covering the Floyd County Board of Supervisors, I stopped by the Floyd Press to advise editor Wanda Combs of the stories I would be writing for this week’s paper. Tamara was there, taking a photo of her mother out of a frame.
Oh God, I thought. Not Jill.
Yes, Jill. On Saturday, after a day of cooking for visitors, regulars and friends at the Country Store, she said she wasn’t feeling well and went home an hour early. On Sunday, Jill Mackin suffered a stroke and died.
Shock swept over me. A little over a month ago, I lost my mother, so I knew how Tamara must feel. But the man who writes thousands of words a week for print and Internet publication couldn’t find the words. I left the Press offices stunned and sat on my motorcycle shaking and gasping for breath.
I pounded the handlebars and wiped away tears. Not Jill, I kept saying to myself. Finally, I fired up the Harley and headed home. That evening, I sat alone in my study, remembering a good friend. It would be after midnight before I could put aside my thoughts and write about the day’s events for this week’s paper.
No one knows for sure the spiritual forces that determine when someone we know and love leaves us. We each have our beliefs, be they based on religion, some other form of spirituality or the cold facts of science.
Each offers a way of dealing with grief, but none can take away the pain.
I’ve tried to write about Jill for this web site but the words couldn’t come. I couldn’t write about anything else either.
A celebration of Jill Mackin’s life is scheduled at the Floyd County Store on Sunday, October 21 from 6 to 8 p.m. The store will prepare some of her favorite recipes as part of that celebration.
Maybe by then, I can find the right words to properly say goodbye to a friend.
Long-time newspaperman, photographer and videographer who still shoots photos and covers government and courts for a newspaper, shoots video for TV and documentary use and owns web sites like Blue Ridge Muse, Capitol Hill Blue and American Newsreel.