The widow of the Jamaican-born founder and owner of the popular Golden Krust restaurant chain in the United States, Lowell Hawthorne, broke her silence at his massive funeral in Brooklyn Tuesday, writing that his shocking suicide left her family heartbroken and grasping for answers, according to reports.
Lorna Hawthorne called her husband a “Phenomenal Extraordinaire,” as she shared her first personal sentiments in a tribute on the back of a 45-page printed program, the New York Daily News said.
“My husband was a visionary, a dreamer, a motivator, a courageous and compassionate person,” she said in the message to the more than 4,500 mourners who packed the Christian Cultural Center, in Canarsie, Brooklyn, to capacity.
“You were my confidant, a faithful and loving husband, the greatest dad our children could ever wish for and a tower of strength to our family,” she said. “Though you left us with many tears and questions, we must continue our life and will see you in paradise.”
Hawthorne, 57, died Dec. 2 after shooting himself in the head inside his Golden Krust factory in the Bronx, the Daily News said. Police recovered the gun and a note, but authorities did not reveal what the message said.
Two former employees filed a proposed class action lawsuit days later, saying the company failed to pay them overtime wages, according to the Daily News.
It said Hawthorne already was facing a different overtime lawsuit and significant tax debt when he died.
“You are now in eternal peace. Fret no more,” Hawthorne’s son, Haywood Hawthorne, a vice president at Golden Krust, told mourners.
In choking back tears, Hawthorne’s daughter, Monique Hawthorne, described losing her “best friend.”
“For anyone who knows me, you know my dad was my first love,” she said from the huge pulpit. “As a father-daughter duo, we fit together quite well. He was the yin to my yang.”
Monique recalled how her dad once told a chef at their house in Jamaica that his job depended on his ability to please her, since she was the princess,” according to the Daily News.
“I’m sure he was probably joking, but, in those circumstances and those unseen moments, my father was always protective, always loving and always supportive,” she said.
“He was also the one who pushed me out of complacency when it came to me doing my doctorate; and, now, I’m in my fourth out of five years,” she said, as mourners applauded.
Hawthorne’s two other sons also gave eulogies, with one voicing the family’s shock over the unexpected tragedy, the Daily News said.
“I always knew the day would come when I would have to write this tribute,” said Darren Hawthorne. “While I didn’t expect the day to come this early, you have instilled the principle of faith in all of your children.”
“Through us, we will keep his hope alive - the man who could make any room chuckle and laugh,” another son, Omar Hawthorne, said. “The man who can make any situation feel like there’s no problem at hand.”
Hawthorne’s suicide sent shock waves from across New York City, where he built his multimillion-dollar empire, to the government offices of his Jamaican homeland, where Prime Minister Andrew Holness offered his condolences over social media, the Daily News said.
It said Hawthorne personified the American rags to riches dream, migrating to the United States at 21, opening his first Golden Krust store on E. Gun Hill Rd. in the Bronx less than a decade later, in 1989, and reportedly becoming the first Caribbean-owned business to be granted a franchise license.
He went on to build the beef-patty purveyor into a national name with more than 120 restaurants in nine states, the Daily News said.
It said the company also produces more than 50 million patties a year sold in retail stores in more than 30 states.
“Dearest Lowell, you have touched many lives in a positive manner,” wrote Lorna Hawthorne wrote in her message. “Gone too soon, but your memories will be cherished forever. With heartbroken tears, your loving and dearest wife, Lorna Hawthorne.”