By MARTIN DeANGELIS
Edward Small was proud to be known by two titles.
One was Chef Small, from the job he kept until he was 75 at a series of restaurants from Maryland to Delaware to Pennsylvania to New Jersey. But oddly, he spent almost none of his career working around his adopted hometown, Atlantic City. He once told a newspaper interviewer near Philadelphia that “I don’t like seashore work. It’s all rush, rush, rush there.”
The other title he liked was Deacon Small. When he died last month — and was buried the day before he would have turned 96 — Small had been a member of Atlantic City’s New Bethel Fire Baptized Holiness Church for 75 years.
He was the chief deacon for many of those years, an active, devoted church member. He was known, especially in his retirement years, for driving other members to services every Sunday.
“But he would also take people to the doctor, the bank and things like that,” said the Rev. Marilyn Lewis, of Vineland, his pastor for 14 years. “When people had needs, he’d help meet their needs.”
His granddaughter, Bernadette Moore, of Pleasantville, said her Pop Pop didn’t just help his friends and church family do errands in the Lincolns he always liked driving.
“Sometimes, he’d take them out to eat, too,” said Moore, 46, who went along on some of those adventures when she was young.
But thanks to decades of professional experience, this man didn’t need a restaurant to eat well. He enjoyed cooking for people in his home, too, and he managed to combine his two titles — deacon and chef — by inviting church leaders home for dinner after services.
“He always wanted to make sure the pastor and his family could eat every Sunday,” said the Rev. Jemelle Caldwell-Kingcade, 48, a Philadelphia-based minister whose late father, the Rev. James Caldwell, was Small’s pastor in the 1980s and friend for years after.
“Deacon Small loved to make seafood, but there was no food that was foreign to him. It could be a special Southern dish ... or anything he felt like doing to broaden our horizons,” she said. “Any time we went to his house, we knew we’d get something extra special.”
But as accomplished and admired as he was in the kitchen, Small was also proud to be a father, grandfather and husband. He and the former Rebecca Bradley, both natives of Conway, S.C., were married from 1936 to 2012 — Rebecca died in June, on her 95th birthday.
She was sharp until her last days. But the deacon fought dementia his last few years, his granddaughter said.
“He started calling her name after she passed,” Moore said. “We’d hear him saying, ‘Rebecca. Rebecca.’”
She had been his wife for 76 years. A habit that old must be hard to break.
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