Beloved Dinglewood chili chef dies. ‘Lieutenant’ will hug her in heaven, customer says

Earnestine King, a longtime cook and soda fountain manager at Dinglewood Pharmacy, died Wednesday night from complications following a stroke. She was 61.

Terry Hurley, Dinglewood’s owner, shared the news of King’s passing on his personal Facebook page Thursday.

“It is with a heavy heart that I report our friend and retired longtime co-worker, Earnestine Jones King, passed away last night. She died as result of a stroke,” he wrote.

King worked at the iconic Columbus fixture for 33 years before she retired last year, eventually making her way to the rank of soda fountain manager. She was the head chili chef for the past two decades, taking the place of the famed Lieutenant Charles Stevens. Stevens died in January of natural causes.

“Lieutenant brought her in 33 years prior to her retirement,” Hurley said. “He was getting on up there in years and lifting those pots … it’s kind of a hard deal.

“(Lieutenant) said ‘I think Earnestine would (do a good job),’” he said. “He’d make chili occasionally but she made it 85% of the time.”

King suffered her first stroke about three weeks ago and had lost the use of the right side of her body. She was taken home but later suffered a second stroke two weeks ago. She was in the hospital until her death, Hurley said.

“She was just as sweet as she could be,” Hurley said. “Really warm-hearted. ...She was really loved, especially by the lady customers.”

In a post about King’s death on the pharmacy’s Facebook page, people shared their fond memories of King’s ‘sweet personality.’

“Awe. Made me tear up. Great memories of Earnestine and entire Dinglewood crew. No doubt, Lieutenant was there in Heaven to greet her with a huge hug!” one user wrote.

Hurley visited King the night of her death. He left as family members arrived to visit. Before Hurley began leaving, he said he shared his favorite memory of King with her.

“I’ll always remember you in that white dress coming out of the back of the house to get married to Joe,” he said he told her. “She was the prettiest thing.”