Mrs. Wilkes' Boarding House Remembered - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

10/31/02

Mrs. Wilkes' Boarding House Remembered

A typical dining scene at Mrs. Wilkes'.

People all across the country mourn the loss of Mrs. Wilkes, a Savannah institution. While many may know her for her friendly smile, others know a special kind of fellowship she fostered around her great southern food.

The sign outside Mrs. Wilkes' Boarding House marks an important local landmark. It's not one of Savannah's historic squares. It's not even on the historic registry, but take a peak inside and you'll see why it's a historic taste of Savannah.

Before we shared this wonderful bounty , we always heard a simple blessing from the principled lady who started all this: "Good Lord, bless this food to us, and us to thy service. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen. Amen."

Sema Wilkes cooked her first meal at age seven. Her mother was ailing, so it was a skill born of necessity, a skill that's carried her through the rest of her years.

She came to Savannah from Toombs County in 1942. In need of work, Mrs. Wilkes found herself lending a hand in the kitchen of a boarding house. In no time, she was running the place and drawing a crowd with specialties like her wonderful fried chicken. As Mrs. Wilkes once put it, "If the Colonel made it as good as ours, he'd be a General!"

Mrs. Wilkes's recipe books have sold more than a quarter million copies, which is a certain measure of immortality, but what will truly hold her fast in our collective fond memory is the way she brought us together at the dinner table.

Mrs. Wilkes leaves behind loving family and rich tradition of her boarding house will continue under the watchful eyes of those who've actually run it for the last several years, her daughter and son-in-law, her grand-daughter, and family.

Reported by: Sonny Dixon, sonnyd@wtoc.com

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