MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. The world lost the reigning Queen of Soul Food Thursday when Sylvia Woods, founder of the Harlem soul food eatery Sylvias Restaurant, died at her Mount Vernon home, according to a statement from her family. She was 86.
The statement said Woods had gallantly battled Alzheimers for the past several years, and that, despite her battle, she never lost her smile.
Sylvias Restaurant is a culinary landmark that serves iconic Southern dishes, including fried chicken, house-made cornbread and collard greens.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg called Woods a legend in a statement on Thursday.
Born in Hemingway, S.C., Woods met the man she would eventually marry, Herbert, when she was 11 years old. The two were smitten with each other from the start, and started planning for a future together in New York City. According to the restaurants website, the young couple married in 1944 and moved to Harlem, where she found work as a waitress at Johnsons luncheonette. Sometime after, thanks to her entrepreneurial spirit, and her mothers willingness to mortgage her South Carolina farm, Woods was able to buy Johnsons luncheonette, which she transformed into Sylvias Restaurant, where the likes of Diana Ross, the Rev. Al Sharpton and President Obama have dined.
Her family has requested that, rather than flowers, those who want to honor her passing make donations to the Sylvia and Herbert Woods Foundation, c/o Sylvia's Restaurant 328 Lenox Avenue New York, NY 10027. The foundation works to send kids from Harlem to college.
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