Community says goodbye to restaurant pioneer KeVen Parker

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Family and friends in Philadelphia said goodbye to a pioneer in the Black community on Monday.

For six hours, a steady stream of friends, colleagues and mentees tearfully walked through the theater of The Met on North Broad Street, some so grief-stricken by the loss of KeVen Parker they could barely stand to say goodbye.

The 57-year-old restauranteur died earlier this month from cancer and diabetes.

"He will be missed every day because I'm losing one of my best friends," said John Jones.

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A pioneer in the Black restaurant community has died Friday. Keven Parker owned Ms. Tootsie's Restaurant on South Street and another location at the Reading Terminal Market.

Looking at all the lives Parker had touched, Lanez Perry-Boone said she felt his presence at the viewing.

She said he was like a father to her.

To many in the community, he was a trailblazer, opening various soul food eateries, particularly the now famed Ms. Tootsies.

"There was nothing there when he opened 13th and South," said Perry-Boone. "Most restaurants who opened up after him that were Black-owned went to him for advice and counsel, and he opened his arms freely."

Gregory Love was one of many who learned from Parker.

"I knew him not only through the restaurant business, but also being a mentor, someone instrumental in helping me fulfilling some of my goals," Love said.

SEE ALSO: Philadelphia community mourning loss of restaurant pioneer KeVen Parker
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Dozens gathered to remember Philadelphia restaurant pioneer KeVen Parker, saying his legacy wasn't his restaurants or delicious food, but the love he gave and how he inspired others.

Love said they spoke the day before he passed after he received a text message from Parker.

"Something just said call him again. We had a conversation, a brief conversation, but I think that was his way of telling goodbye because I didn't know how serious it was. I'm just thankful I answered that text," Love said.

Parker was a self-made success story. The entrepreneur even made award-winning dishes that have been sampled by Patti LaBelle, Oprah Winfrey and former President Bill Clinton.

While his achievements paved the way for future Black restauranteurs, those who knew him say it's his ability to invest in the community that will be missed most.
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