GAMBIER — Gambier community members and Kenyon College faculty and students gathered inside a packed Harcourt Parish House on Friday to celebrate the legacy of the late Joyce Klein, founder of the Friday Cafe.
Offered to those who brought their appetites were delectable delights the likes of which Klein was known to serve — chilled gazpacho, veggie frittata, cafe salad, scrumptious desserts, and of course, coffee.
Klein, 84, died Feb. 4 in Maine, where the Klein family had spent many summers and where she was being treated for cancer.
After moving to Kenyon in 1968 with her husband, Professor Emeritus of English Bill Klein, she set about to find ways to bring “town and gown” together. With several locations over the years, her Friday Café became one way to do it. Klein was also well-known for being a co-founder of the Gambier Craft Sale, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this past December. She also ran a successful catering business.
Those on hand Friday for the special Friday Café included her husband and their three children, all Kenyon alumni: Tom, a 1990 graduate living in Idaho who, like his father, teaches Medieval literature; Anna, a 1993 graduate and resident of Maine who directs a non-profit organization benefiting impoverished Guatemalan people with education and outreach, called Safe Passage; and Michael, a 1999 graduate and practicing attorney. All three were pleased with the turnout for the Friday Café and the well-wishes of those on hand, most of whom attended the memorial service that followed inside Kenyon’s Bolton Theater.
“It was very important to her that people of so many different backgrounds come to the Friday Café, not just (Kenyon) faculty and students,” her daughter Anna said. She noted that her mother did not earn a profit on the food she made, because she did not want to make affordability an issue. The café was about bringing people together as one community. Proceeds from the special Friday Café went to the Maine Cancer Foundation.
Tom Klein said he used to help his mother with the café and in return would get some food. “I used to come for meals here and then go to like, a two o’clock class and I would have eaten so richly that I would have a hard time keeping awake.”
One friend of Joyce Klein’s, Judy Fisher of Mount Vernon, worked part-time alongside Klein for her catering business. She remembered a first-rate cookbook her friend created in partnership with former owners of the White Oak Inn.
Seated next to Fisher was another friend of Klein’s, Carolyn Gray of Mount Vernon.
“She (Klein) would cater our Democrat (Party) meetings and would bring a lot of hors d’oeuvres,” she said.