Carolyn Joan Thompson, who owned the popular Columbus pizza restaurant Deorio’s for nearly four decades, has died at age 65.
Thompson, known to customers and employees as Joan, passed away Monday at Columbus Hospice. A funeral service is scheduled 10 a.m. Friday at McMullen Funeral Home on Gentian Boulevard, with burial taking place in Muscadine, Ala.
“It’s very sad. We’ll miss her very much,” longtime Deorio’s manager Willy Patterson said Thursday, taking a quick break from a bustling lunchtime crowd.
The eatery at Cross Country Plaza on Macon Road celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2011. It will close for lunch Friday during Thompson’s funeral service, Patterson said, but there are no plans whatsoever to shutter the Italian restaurant’s doors permanently.
“There’s nothing in concrete, of course, but it’s not going nowhere,” said Patterson, who worked for Thompson 37 years. “We’re going to keep it going like she would want us to. Deorio’s is going to be here another 50 years if we can help it.”
Aside from its variety of pizza, the restaurant was known for its Italian dishes of spaghetti, lasagna and chicken parmigiana. It also was popular because of the wall of photos just inside the front door of happy customers it had served through the years.
Thompson, a Fortson resident and native of LaGrange, Ga., bought Deorio’s in 1975, Patterson said. The restaurant business can be particularly brutal and fickle, but the eatery survived recessions, an influx of pizza chains and home delivery, and a fire in another eatery above it in 2004.
“I remember when they put Pizza Inn in, and I thought, ‘Gosh, what are we going to do now?’ ” Thompson said in a 2011 interview. “But I never noticed it. ... I’ve really been blessed. Most people who come in know each other. It’s like family.”
In fact, family was the word being used often Thursday on the Deorio’s Facebook page by customers expressing condolences on the loss experienced by the owner’s family and staff.
“I spent every birthday. my wedding shower, my baby shower and every Friday night at Deorio’s,” said Jennifer Heid Hendrix on Facebook. “My mothers favorite place. My family gathered at Deorios the afternoon my mother past away. Thank you for being such a wonderful part of our life.”
Said Lisa Francis on the website: “There was never a dull moment with that precious lady, and I loved her from the first moment I met her ... She was one in a million and she will be missed by many. Much love and many prayers going out to our Deorio’s family!!”
Thompson is survived by her daughters, Barney Hawkins and Sydney Hawkins, granddaughter Chandler Alexander Sutherland, sister Lucille Walden, brothers David Harris and Edward Harris, and their family members.
The family asks that donations in her memory be made to SunTrust Bank in Columbus, with the money going to Sydney Hawkins and Chander Sutherland.