Doris Flocchini remembered for her generosity and kindness

By: Patty McAlpin, Reporter
-A +A

A public memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Jan. 19 at the Heritage Theater on

561 Lincoln Blvd

Diana Burke remembers her mother Doris Flocchini as a kind, gracious tireless worker who loved others and could pull a meal together when extra guests showed up for a dinner party or there was a crisis in the community.

Doris Flocchini, 87, died Dec. 26.

Her mother learned how to cook for others early on, Burke said. Flocchini was born the fourth of six children and the oldest daughter in 1926 in Norman, Minn. Her father died when she was

13-years-old, leaving her mother to raise six children on a limited income during the Depression.

“You relied on community and family. All the kids worked,” Burke recalls. “Mom came from a family of potato farmers. She was the only one to graduate high school. A couple of her brothers went back and got a GED.”

Flocchini graduated high school during World War II. She and her best friend, Arloene Kerr, came to Lincoln to look for jobs. Her best friend’s aunt lived in Lincoln so they stayed with her. They found jobs at a cannery on their first day in town but the cannery went up in flames a few days later. They saw the fire on the way home from a military dance at McClellan Air Force Base. So Flocchini went to work at a grocery store and bakery, where she learned to do more extensive baking.

“I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t in the kitchen with my mom learning things,” Burke said.   

Burke says her favorite recipes from her mother are potato salad, carrot cake and Italian stuffing they made at Thanksgiving. The potato salad recipe came from her mother’s mother.

“The very first thing I learned to do for her was a pie,” Burke said. “I had my own whisk, rolling pin and pie tin.”

Her mother helped Burke and her sister, Debi, host their first dinner party at the ages of 4 and 6.

“Mom bought a ‘Betty Crocker Boys and Girls cookbook,’” Burke said. “We picked out the menu and invited our Uncle Harold and Aunt Leah Creer who owned the Creer grocery store before the store became Rainbow Market. We served them meatloaf with mashed potatoes on top, pear salad and dessert. She took us to the store to buy the ingredients and we prepared the meal per her instructions.”

Along with the lesson in cooking, Flocchini taught her daughters math and table manners.

Her mother was hard working but always made time for her family, Burke said.

Flocchini owned a bakery called Pastries Plus and worked as a court clerk for Judge Richard Cousins and kept books for her husband, Bob Flocchini.

“When I was a kid, mom prepared breakfast, packed us lunches and put dinner on the table,” Burke said.

The bakery was operating until 1980 and Flocchini opened Sandwich Alley in 1979. Flocchini ran both of her businesses simultaneously for a short time before closing the bakery. Flocchini sold Sandwich Alley, now named Simple Pleasures, to her daughter in 1991 and continued to work in the kitchen until she was 84.

But she never stopped working.

“They (the customers) miss their door greeter,” Burke said. “Mom thought retirement was overrated. She believed a person needs to have a purpose. Not a day would pass that she wouldn’t ask, ‘What do you need done? What can I help you with at home?’”

Burke will also remember her mother’s generosity.

“When the four of us (me, Debi, mom and dad) were home, dinner would start with us and people would arrive,” Burke said. “That was typical at our house. Mom was a very gracious lady. There was always more room at the table.”

Burke’s older two siblings had already left home. Her father had four children from his first marriage.

Some of Burke’s fondest memories are of working with her mother in the kitchen growing up and at the restaurant. The two developed a product line called Mom Loves Me Best that includes barbecue sauce, marinade and potato salad sauce.

Kitchen manager Rosemary Avila worked with Flocchini for 30 years, since the restaurant’s beginning. On slow days, Avila remembers playing cards with her boss after all the work was finished. On busy days, “she ran circles around you.”

Avila recalls that Flocchini was really easy to get along with and “she was real good with names.”

“She wasn’t a very talkative person. She usually worked in the kitchen. But she was kind. She listened to what customers had to say,” Avila said.

Their friendship was very special to Avila.

“I was 30 years old when I started working for her,” Avila said. “She was already 50. To me, that was old. But we got along well. She was a friend, like a friend of my age. I always thought it was neat to have somebody older than me be a friend.”

Burke said her mother embraced people who were new to the community, bringing them into her family at home and at the restaurant.

“She may have a limited number of grandchildren but she’s got grandchildren, sons and daughters out in the community,” Burke said.