Maryanne Hooley was irreverent, funny, loyal, and a great friend. I first met ‘Hooley’ in the mid 90′s on a frigid winter night at Olives restaurant in Charlestown, MA. I walked into the foyer and almost didn’t see Hooley at first. She was working in a tiny closet they called the coat room. Hooley referred to it as The Box. When I stepped in out of the cold I saw several coats bulging out of a small opening in the wall, and there, amidst all of that fabric, sat one of my best friends in the world and I didn’t even know it. She had a twinkle in her eyes peering out from behind some trashy novel as the coats pressed against the back of her head. After exchanging pleasantries, Hooley told me that she had squeezed as many coats as possible into the box, and that there was absolutely no room for mine. I told her that I understood and ventured into the restaurant.
After waiting for a drink in a heavy wool coat, my body temperature started to climb rapidly. I returned to the foyer to make one final attempt at ditching my coat. I asked Hooley, Isn’t there somewhere I can dump this? Hooley responded, Honey, the only place possible is on the floor next to mine. ‘Perfect,’ I replied, and promptly ripped off my coat, curled it into a ball, and Hooley threw it on the floor next to hers. And thus began a relationship I will treasure the rest of my life.
Maryanne Hooley was a spry, 61 year-old bartender when she was diagnosed with lung cancer. She died seven months later on September 28, 2006. A lot of people use the terms down-to-earth and salt-of-the-earth to describe people, but few people actually exemplify what those phrases stand for the way Hooley did just by being herself; decent, dependable and unpretentious. In a complex world Hooley had a way of keeping things simple and adding street-smart perspective to her advice and observations. She truly was one-of-a-kind.
In honor of Hooley, I will be setting up a charity called Hooley’s Helpers. A portion of the proceeds from my book will fund the charity to benefit restaurant servers in times of illness, crisis and family emergencies.