Next to her five children, the dining room at Friends in Service Helping was June Koury's baby.
Knowing there were people on Carson City streets who needed a hot meal, she started the dining room in 1987 in a South Carson location before moving it to the charity.
She was a mother for those most in need of a friendly face and a helping hand. While nursing her husband Joe through a 1998 bought with cancer and until days before her 1999 death from cancer, she was in that kitchen making friends, caring for others and cooking nutritious meals.
FISH will celebrate Mother's Day on Sunday with a free Mother's Day luncheon from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in Koury's honor. Executive Director Monte Fast said the dining room will be open to anyone looking for a good meal, and roses will be given to any woman in attendance.
Fast said Anne Connerley, friend of Koury's and assistant cook, told him she and other cooks were celebrating Mother's Day with a hot meal for a woman Connerley described as "exceptionally thoughtful, caring and compassionate."
Connerley and other dining room cooks have been cooking turkeys and fixings for a meal on a day when the kitchen usually serves soups and sandwiches. It was Koury's notion that people are hungry on church days, too, that convinced leaders to open the kitchen on Sundays, Fast said.
Connerley said Koury's constant kindness made volunteering "a joy."
Despite the fact the dining room opens from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., early eaters were always ushered in under Koury's watch for a meal.
"If they needed something to eat, she sat them down and gave them something," Connerley said. "She always said, 'I never turn anybody away because that could be an angel at the door testing me.'"
In 1998, Connerley had open heart surgery at the same time her friend was suffering through treatments for ovarian cancer. When Connerley's husband brought her home from the hospital, she found a table full of cooked food and a card with a $100 bill in it. Weekly, Koury arrived with groceries for her bed-ridden friend.
"Even with all her own expenses and problems, outside her tribulations she managed to have food cooked and on my table," Connerley said. "The night before she died, she called 10 of us volunteers to tell us she loved us. The next day she was gone."
Koury was always on the watch for someone in need, said her daughter, Mary Jo Fischer.
"That was her reason for living, us and her work," Fischer said. "She had so much support and love for what she did. That's what she was put on this earth for, to help people. That's why she opened the dining room -- she had so much love and caring for people."
Fischer put her infant son in a playpen and helped her mother in the kitchen during its first years in operation, watching her mother collect "family" like some people collect nick-nack's
"People always seemed happy to be there," she said. "She made friends with everybody. She filed everything away in that little brain of hers of what people needed, and she would always be on the lookout (for it). She was one of those people you could count on to be there for you."
Koury always chafed at the idea of her dining room being called a soup kitchen, and aimed to make it a place where anyone would feel welcome, Fast said. While Fast expects many of the dining room's regulars to eat Sunday, he hopes others in the community coming from church "with a necktie on" will join them for lunch.
"This is a chance to nod your head at a guy who doesn't have a house," Fast said. "To see it, to share a meal in the same place, is not degrading. In a sense, it's uplifting. It helps the people who have all they need (gain) a different perspective on materialism."
Possible pull quote
"She always said, 'I never turn anybody away because that could be an angel at the door testing me,'" Anne Connerley, quoting her friend, June Koury.
If you go:
What: Free Mother's Day dinner
When: 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., Sunday
Where: FISH family dining room, 138 E. Long St.