Gained more than pounds at bakery

Published 9:03 am Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Walking down the streets of downtown Greenville not much has changed in the New Year, except the black ribbon gracing the doors of Camellia City Bakery & Deli.

Last Wednesday Ozzie Judah passed away after weeks of battling congestive heart failure.  Last Wednesday family members lost an irreplaceable love, friends lost a loyal comrade, and Greenville lost a business owner that breathed new life into the downtown area with the beloved bakery and deli.

During my newspaper career I’ve had opportunities to meet a lot of people, see new businesses open doors and watch existing businesses grow and expand.  Every now and then, along the way, I have come across people that I have the pleasure considering a friend.  Ozzie Judah was my friend.

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His genuinely loyal character, upbeat and happy personality, humorous outlook on life, and occasionally brutal honesty was infectious.  It’s rare to find someone willing to tell you the truth, whether you’re prepared for it or not.  If you wanted a truthful answer, you could ask Ozzie.  If you were looking for someone that would simply tell you what you wanted to hear for the sake of agreeing with you, you’d need to look elsewhere.   He always took time to sit and visit, talk about family and work, about business and the community, no matter how busy he was.  He was a man of his word and always willing to lend a helping hand in the community and to his friends.

Ozzie’s love for his wife, Ann, daughter LeAnn, and grandchildren Sam Judah and Ann Knox was obvious within the first few minutes of meeting him.  From the seamless way that he and Ann communicated to the proud look he’d get when he talked about LeAnn and her accomplishments, to the smile he’d get on his face when Sam Judah and Ann Knox walked into the room – his love for his family was undeniable. Ozzie considered everyone he knew to be a part of what he considered an extended family.

Although Ozzie only spent three years here in the Camellia City, he quickly became a familiar face and a recognizable name in our community.  He was genuinely interested in everyone he met and everyone he met was genuinely interested in him.  That is rare, but then again, so was Ozzie.

I will certainly miss his famous chicken salad on a croissant, prepared as he stood behind the counter in his black apron, chatting away with Ann and customers at the register.  I will miss the many conversations had at the front table by the register, laughing and cutting up with Ozzie about work, family, and life in general.   The food at the bakery is good, the service is great, but the friendship gained while going there is even better.   I will miss the mischievous smile on his face, as he would say “Blondie, you better get yourself in here and speak.”  But more than the tasty treats that could be found at breakfast or the chicken salad at lunch, I will miss the man behind the counter, my friend.