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Tributes planned to honor Longview restaurateur Gerard Cace

By Sherry Koonce skoonce@news-journal.com
Sept. 9, 2012 at 10 p.m.


For all the meals Gerard Cace has served, all the Saturdays he's helped out at Longview's Historic Farmers Market and for all his efforts to promote the community, a group of friends are planning tributes to ensure the longtime restaurateur's work, and his love for Longview, is not forgotten.

Cace, co-owner of Johnny Cace's Seafood & Steak House, died July 19 at the age of 59.

His memory, and all that he accomplished during his life, lives on, friends say.

"I knew Gerard 30 years; he was a longtime friend. We wanted to do something to honor him, something to be permanent," John Green, owner of Green Ad Agency in Longview, said.

Green is leading an effort to name the commercial kitchen at Maude Cobb Convention and Activity Center after Cace.

If all goes as planned, the kitchen would be known as the "Gerard Cace Kitchen."

In another area of town, on Marshall Avenue where the Johnny Cace's stands and the Cace family continues to operate the landmark restaurant, other efforts to honor the longtime owner have started.

Preservation Longview, a group dedicated to preserving the city's heritage, is spearheading efforts to have a Texas historical marker dedicated to Cace, and to plant crepe myrtles in Cace's honor. The marker and the trees would be established at the restaurant for all to see.

Lynette Goodson, president of Preservation Longview, said the process to establish a historical marker typically takes a about two years. An application is first submitted first through the Gregg County Historical Commission, before it is forwarded to the Texas Historical Commission for final approval.

Goodson said she believes the marker will be granted because Cace's work and his historical standing in the community, meets the criteria set forth by the state.

Though Cace is best known for serving thousands upon thousands of meals at Johnny Cace's, and catering countless parties and banquets through the years, his interest and assistance to the Historic Longview Farmer's Market is lesser known.

"Gerard and his wife, Cathy, were supporters of the Farmers Market from the first time I told them I was working on it. Gerard Cace was out there every Saturday to help us set up, he helped with chef's demonstrations, he just helped in any way he could," Goodson said.

The couple were there most every Saturday serving cinnamon rolls and coffee.

Because of his love for nature's bounty, Goodson said Preservation Longview is leading a tribute effort to plant 12 crepe myrtles trees in front of the restaurant. For a donation of $200, each tree will have a plaque affixed acknowledging the donor.

Tax deductible donations can also be made to offset the estimated $2,000 it will cost for the historical marker.

For information, call Goodson at (903) 746-2708 or Ellen Gordon at (903) 720-1398, or email Goodson at lynettegoodson@yahoo.com.

Because the Maude Cobb facility is part of the city's parks and recreation department, any name request requires public notice. A public comment period remains in effect until Sept. 30. Anyone who wishes to comment may do so by writing City of Longview Parks and Recreation Department, Community Services Administration, 321 Gum Street, Longview, Texas 75601, attention: Dietrich Johnson.

Dixie Golden, activity complex manager at Maude Cobb, said renaming the commercial kitchen in Cace's honor would be a wonderful way to pay tribute to the man who had presided over that kitchen for so many catered events.

"The Cace's were a fixture there. They catered a large percentage of events out here, so it is only fitting that the kitchen be named in his honor," Golden said.

Since her husband's death, Cathy Cace said she has realized just how much her husband was loved and admired by the community. These latest tribute efforts enforce those feelings, and make the Cace family proud.

"We just appreciate it all so much; he had no idea people felt this way so much," Cathy Cace said. "He was who he was, and did the things he did because that is who he was."

When the kitchen was remodeled, Cathy Cace said her husband was consulted to find out how best to construct it from a caterer's perspective, to make it more efficient.

Still, there are no words to express the family's feelings of gratitude for the tribute paid her husband, Cathy Cace said.

"I know he would be very surprised, but also very honored, humbled," she said.

And, the first time the family caters the event in the Gerard Cace Kitchen, will be a special honor.

"We will feel fabulous to see Gerard's name as a permanent part so he won't be forgotten, then people will know he was a permanent part of that kitchen being what it is," Cathy Cace said.

Once the public comment period is concluded, the name change request will have to be approved by Longview city councilmembers.

Mayor Jay Dean said he planned to support the name request.

"The Cace family has catered and utilized that facility for so many years, I think it would be very appropriate," Dean said.

Gerard Cace was a past statewide president of the Texas Restaurant Association, and was inducted into it's Hall of Honor in June 2011.

He was a founder of Longview Junior Achievement, was active in St. Mary's Catholic Church and its namesake private school. He was also a Rotarian and member of the Knights of Columbus.

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