One thing I have learned is that good friends have other good friends. This is a series of stories about “friends of my friends”. The post below is the story for May 2, 2015.
My goal in 2015 is to learn or get re-acquainted with 365 people and doing a daily post on the “the friend of a friend” is helping me get closer to my goal.
My wife and I make it a practice to have a date night where we often go out to eat on either a Friday or Saturday night. Early in our marriage going out to eat was not possible due to a myriad of parental or professional obligations. Early in our marriage while we were living in Lumberton, NC if we had a special occasion we went to one particular restaurant that is no longer standing a restaurant called Johns. The restaurant was owned by John and Ruth Ann McLellan. Ruth Ann was the front of the restaurant and always made my wife and I feel like royalty when we entered the front door.
I have to point out to those discriminating readers that the name is spelled correctly as Johns. Just before the opening of Johns in 1978, the new restaurant sign arrived to be erected. John McLellan immediately took a disliking to the apostrophe that was to be placed between the “n” and the “s.” He decided that it would add a uniqueness to the restaurant to simply display the name as “Johns,” and so it was for 28 years. Still, many people tended to incorrectly write the name of the restaurant with an apostrophe.
The first time I ever ate in Johns was in the fall of 1978. That was the year that the restaurant opened. I was single at the time living in Pembroke and rarely had a great meal as a bachelor.
Lacey Gane the UNCP Athletic Director/Golf Coach at the time had a bunch of his Philadelphia golfing (drinking/card playing) buddies in town. He had got them on a couple of area golf courses for free or greatly discounted and they wanted to treat Lacey and his friends to dinner for his generosity. These friends didn’t want just any dinner but a high roller event.
With Lacey’s help his friends booked out the back room at Johns Restaurant and instructed the co-owner John McLellan to cook an entire standing rib roast not only for their foursome but for Lacey and his friends. I somehow got invited and was hooked on John’s cooking and prime rib. In fact today our family has a standing rib roast every Christmas. Johns Restaurant gets the credit.
If you flash forward to 1985 I moved to Lumberton with my wife Mira along with two small children. We had been married five years and we were not rolling in the money. So going out was not something easily afforded. When a special occasion would arise in our lives we would go to Johns Restaurant. More often than not I would have the prime rib. When we went to Johns it was a treat.
Ruth Ann was the epitome of the southern hostess and I would always leave having experienced great customer service. John McLellan was a student of the restaurant business especially the food. He was always looking to learn. When he was around other restaurant people he was looking to replicate their talents.
Photo below (l-r) Justin Wilson Louisiana Chef and TV personality and John McLellan-1994
As Johns approached its 28th year in business in 2006, Ruth Ann and John were discussing retirement. They wanted more time with their children and grandchildren, and health concerns were becoming an issue for both of them. John was hesitant to close the restaurant, but Ruth Ann was adamant that the time was near. She says it took two years but she finally convinced him to set a closing date.
John wanted to have one more New Year’s Eve at the restaurant. Following that final blast, the restaurant closed in January of 2007. For my wife and I that ended a certain type of a Camelot experience in Lumberton, NC.
After an extended illness, John McLellan passed away in 2010. Ruth Ann continues to live in Lumberton and is one of my Elm Street neighbors. She remains active in a number of activities including; Chestnut Street United Methodist Church, where she has served as a trustee and in other areas of service. She has been active with the Boys and Girls Club, Historic Robeson, the Robeson County History Museum, and Rediscover Downtown Lumberton.
Ruth Ann has strong ties to Lumberton thanks in large part to her family especially her dad Dr. Horace Baker Jr.
The Friend-RUTH ANN MCLELLAN
The Friend of the Friend-HORACE BAKER Jr. depicted on far left
The doctor comes to town
Sometimes one family can change the landscape for an entire community, I believe that is the case with Ruth Ann Baker McLellan’s family.
In the 1940’s Ruth Ann’s grandfather Dr. Horace Baker, Sr., was a surgeon and founder of the Baker Sanatorium which later merged with Thompson Hospital to form what was known as the Baker-Thompson Memorial Hospital in Lumberton in 1946. That facility was located on Chestnut Street between 14th and 15th streets. These two older facilities were replaced by a new hospital known as Robeson County Memorial Hospital in 1953, which later became Southeastern Regional Medical Center.
Ruth Ann father was Dr. Horace Baker Jr. who did his residency at Duke Hospital. Ruth Ann was born in Durham, NC during this time. Soon after, Dr. Baker and his wife, Dorothy, moved to Lumberton to begin his medical practice. Dr. Horace Baker Jr had three children with Ruth Ann being the oldest.
Photo of Ruth Ann’s parents and husband John. (l-r) Dr. Horace Baker Jr. , John, Ruth Ann, and Dorothy Baker.
Ruth Ann’s brother, Mitch Baker, is a practicing attorney in Wilmington and her sister, Dr. Annette Baker Hines, is head of graduate nursing studies at Queens University in Charlotte.
When Dr. Horace Baker Jr. retired eventually they moved to Pinehurst, NC. The Lumberton house they lived in is now the residence of Ruth Ann.
If you live in Lumberton, NC I hope you will appreciate the history that exists today related to Southeastern Health and understand the role the Baker family played in it.