Though it’s likely no one reading this knows Jodi Aufdencamp, odds are you know a restaurateur like her.
Married, mother of two, co-owner of five Mama Mimi’s Take ‘N Bake Pizza shops in and around Columbus, Ohio.
Died Aug 17 after a protracted battle with cancer. She’ll be buried this moring.
A friend of mine since 2002, Jodi was no ordinary woman. She was a life force, a hard-working, creative firecracker whose determination to succeed in business was shared by her husband, Jeff.
She was 46 when she died in his arms last Friday, with their kids at her bedside.
The couple’s business is a buttoned up enterprise, so I’m assuming she had life insurance.
Still, her obituary instructed mourners to donate to a college fund for their children in lieu of gifts or flowers … because let’s face it, they likely weren’t rich. If they are, they’re hiding it.
In most cases, it’s tough to make a fortune in the pizza business. John Schnatter stories are few and far between. Most restaurateurs and small businesses owners are like the Aufdencamps, busting their humps to get by and put away a few dollars over the years.
I’ve been to their modest house for dinner (a veteran restaurant chef, Jodi was a heck of a cook), and I know of the simple vacations they took with their teens, Gabi and Kohl. Nothing fancy.
Which was Jodi anyway: no frills. What you saw—and heard (she had a huge, contagious laugh)—was what you got. She was tough as nails, intense when the situation called for it, yet bend-over-backward sacrificial and big-hearted.
Like most restaurateurs.
And, like most restaurateurs, her obit didn’t read, “Send flowers, or just keep your money. We’ve got plenty.”
Perhaps they had enough, but it likely isn’t a ton. I’m sure Jeff will need to solider on without his best friend and bride for many years to come.
The Aufdencamps’ difficult situation made me think about APRON, the Louisville-based not-for-profit group formed this year. Its mission is to help restaurant employees who run into financial problems, due usually to lack of medical insurance coverage and doctor bills they can’t pay.
As it stands today, APRON does not have the funds to cover something as extravagant as college tuition or even some of the truly frightening amounts paid by the Aufdencamps and their insurer for Jodi’s treatment.
But had things gotten so dire that they needed food money or enough to keep their electricity on, an APRON-like charity could have helped. Perhaps someday, when there are enough donations to require fund management, APRON could help more. It’s certainly a noble goal to pursue for an industry whose workers commonly lack pricey health insurance and meet catastrophe without a fallback.
Judging from its website, it appears program has gained little participation from inside or outside the restaurant community—so far. That’s a bit troubling (though it could be for lack of marketing) since the need is so great.
Looking for a good cause to support? Think about APRON.
Were there such a group in Columbus, I guarantee Jodi Aufdencamp would have.