Elizabeth P. Mims, 89, a former owner of the Saratoga Restaurant in Lexington's Chevy Chase neighborhood, died Monday.
Mims was a native of Lexington who grew up in the restaurant industry and worked in the business most of her life.
She was known for her good country cooking, outgoing personality and practical jokes.
When Mims was a child, her mother ran a restaurant on Broadway, and Mims worked there during the tobacco sales. One of eight children, she worked on the farm the rest of the year.
As an adult, she worked at the Stirrup Cup Restaurant and the Downtowner Motel.
She and her husband, along with other relatives, bought the Saratoga, a Lexington institution at High Street and Euclid Avenue, in 1978. The family sold the business, which later closed, in 1990.
Mims worked as a riveter in Detroit during World War II and met her late husband, W.O. "Joe" Mims, while he was working as a military police officer.
He had arrested her brother and called for someone to come pick him up, she told the Herald-Leader in 1984.
After the war, Joe Mims was left disabled, and Elizabeth Mims became the family's primary breadwinner.
She raised five children, all of whom got college educations.
"She kind of did it all," her son Ted Mims said Tuesday. "She was always there."
In retirement, Mims volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House, where she cooked up comfort food for families that came to Lexington because of children with severe illnesses.
"She got that mission right away," said Sarah Lister, executive director of Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Bluegrass. "It gave her that sense of being needed and using her talents, and our families just adored her."
She said Mims was known for her fried chicken, fried cornbread, salmon croquettes and "big, big piles of mashed potatoes," as well as "stewed tomatoes that were more like dessert."
In 2009, when Mims was named the organization's volunteer of the year, Lister said he remembers Mims dancing her heart out with a group of sorority girls at a party in her honor.
"She just embraced life," Lister said. "I'm grateful that she had as much life as she did, 'cause she really did squeeze every drop out of it."
In addition to her son Ted, Mims is survived by four other children, Cliff Mims, Theresa Mims, Kim Ellington and John Mims, all of Lexington.
Services will be at 10:30 a.m. Friday at Kerr Brothers Funeral Home on Harrodsburg Road. Visitation will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday.