It was an evening of mourning at The Harvester Hotel on Harvester Avenue on Tuesday evening as longtime customers gathered in the wake of learning earlier in the day that longtime owner Ken Merrick had died at the age of 74.
Merrick sold the bar after owning it for 44 years at the end of May to Melissa Kibbler and Kibbler's mother, Donna Russell, said Tuesday that bar patrons -- whom she said were like family, that the Harvester is like Cheers where "everybody knows your name" -- were also mourning the death on Friday of Casey Cook.
"It’s not just a bar," Russell said. "It’s family. We gather here when we hear this kind of news."
Kibbler wasn't at the bar Tuesday night, Russell said because she was too upset by the news of Merrick's death.
"He was her mentor," she said. "He was like a grandfather to her. She bought the bar in May and Kenny helped every step of the way."
Kibbler started working at the bar for 14 years at age 19 as a substitute bartender.
Casey Cook was part of the family at the neighborhood bar. She was diagnosed with cancer in January and the Harvester family held a fundraiser for her at the Polish Falcons Nest.
"This was very much known as the 'Bitches Bar' because the women in the bar were bartenders and the girls were always here so it was called the Bitches Bar and Casey was one of the Bitches," Russell said.
Just then a patron in a red T-shirt and blue jeans and a bit of gray hair walked out and Russell said, "This is the Bitches' boy" and quickly added, "that's not a bad thing."
Steve, she said, was called the Bitches' Boy because he would do anything for the women at the bar, help them with any problem, and a young man in a pink T-shirt with a construction company name on it added that Steve would help anybody, not just the women.
While talking about Cook, Russell and Steve began ticking off the names of several other patrons who have been taken from the world by cancer.
"This was a bad day," Russell said.
Click here for Ken Merrick's full obituary.