A waitress who served more than just food

For more than 40 years at Shakers restaurant in South Pasadena, Margaret McWhorter transformed legions of customers into friends.

You could say she was a waitress, but that doesn't begin to cover it.

You could say she was a reliable employee, good colleague and devoted family member, but that doesn't paint the whole picture, either.

The world changes around us. It becomes less recognizable and more complicated, and sometimes we need the comfort of something constant, or the touch of someone who connects us to our own history.

For countless customers at Shakers restaurant in South Pasadena, for more than four decades, Margaret McWhorter was that person.

She started working at Shakers the year it opened in 1971. She was 28 then, and by all accounts, she performed her tough job with uncommon grace for the next 42 years.

She knew what you wanted to eat before you did.

She knew that your cousin was moving back to Pasadena and your son was graduating from college.

She knew when you needed a lift, and she knew when you couldn't pay for your meal and needed a little help.

McWhorter, who turned 70 this year, transformed legions of customers into friends, and she kept on doing it without giving a thought to retirement, even after the pain started.

But then, one day in September, McWhorter went to the doctor's office instead of work. The diagnosis was a shock to everyone who loved her. It was pancreatic cancer, stage four, and she didn't have long to live.

"When she got out of ICU, she told me she had been in pain for over a year," said McWhorter's daughter, Marika.

Anyone who knew McWhorter knew she doted on her grandson, Dietrich Riley. The handsome, poised young man was a football star at St. Francis High in La Cañada Flintridge and later at UCLA, where a serious neck injury ended his athletic career two years ago. McWhorter, who was in the stands for that game against Cal, had hoped to hang on long enough to see him graduate, but it didn't happen.

She passed away on Nov. 9.

"We developed a close bond throughout the years," said Dietrich, whose grandmother drove him to school and took care of him when his mother was working.

On Mondays, they went to dinner and shopping together, two of her favorite activities.

On Sundays, Dietrich went to Shakers to say hello and throw an arm around her.

"She would always have the biggest smile in the place, and she loved to introduce me to her customers," said Dietrich. "It was great to see the effect she had on people's lives."

She was strong of spirit even as she lay dying, Dietrich said. He's been studying theater, and even though his grandmother was groggy from sedation, she responded when he read to her from "Romeo and Juliet."

If I profane with my unworthiest hand

This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this:


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