Garry Roark was one of a kind


When you work in a small town newspaper, some news hits you hard. It hits you in the gut, quite frankly.

Many of the people you must write about are the same people you go to church with, your kids play with their kids, you see on a daily basis. And many you’re lucky enough to call your friends.

That was the case this week when my family heard about the passing of local legend Garry Roark. I have done a number of news articles on the Roark family and the barbecue legacy they are spreading all over the country. But it was a shocker to have to work on an obituary this week.

And how can you put a firecracker personality like Garry Roark into words on a page? I am still wondering that as I write this column.

When I first moved to Yazoo City because I fell head over heels in love with a Pea Ridge country boy, Garry’s family were among the first people I met. I believe it was at a Junior Auxiliary 1970s party that I met his sweet, red lipstick wearing daughter Leslie.

Not long after that, my husband Jason told me I had to go try some Ubon’s barbecue. It was a Yazoo staple, and he was right. It was some of the best food I ever put in my mouth.

But what I loved the most was the visit to the table Garry would always make while my family and I were eating there. No matter how busy the restaurant was, he would always take the time for a quick chat. He would ask you how your kids were. He would ask how the food was. And he would always end it with a joke that left you practically choking on your slab of ribs from laughing so hard.

Whenever I had to interview Garry for a newspaper article, I found that I didn’t want to leave when the interview was over. He just that much fun to be around. He was full of laughter and some great stories.

“Now that the interview is over, let’s really talk,” he said, before launching into some funny story that may not have passed print regulations.

Garry was also extremely proud of his community, his family and the love his family put behind their food. Jason hit the nail on the head when he said Garry’s love was the what made the recipes so good.

Believe it or not, it was also Garry who told me a trick that complimented his classic Bloody Mary mix.

“I have heard about people putting all kinds of stuff in the Bloody Mary,” I told him one day.

“You know what you need to try,” he asked. “Put a pickle in it.”

I admit I love pickles so any excuse to add it to a dish or drink was perfect in my book. That night on my front porch, I plopped a pickle in my drink.

“Son of a gun,” I said, smacking my lips. “He was right.”

Without even thinking, the next time I saw Garry…he asked about the pickle. He seemed tickled pink that he had turned, yet another person, on to his own little secret.

There will be an empty seat in the Ubon’s Restaurant now. There will be cold grill or smoker somewhere. And the laughter that would float over three counties will be now a mere whisper, a reminder of the past.

But the love and legacy Garry Roark left will never fade away. He made an impact on me, and I didn’t even know him as well as many others. But he made you feel like you were a lifelong friend regardless.

After a brief visit with the Scott family Wednesday evening, I came home and opened my fridge for a quick bite to eat. And a smile came across my face when I saw a jar of pickles staring at me.

“He knew his stuff,” I mumbled, as I closed the fridge door.

And I know Garry Roark is laughing, cooking and telling a few jokes above us right now. He’s in hog heaven for eternity.