Linda Hancock’s shock of red hair may have let you know she was approaching from across the room, but there was no way to prepare for the force of nature headed in your direction — typically with someone in hand that you needed to be introduced to, immediately. Linda flourished in expanding the circles of her robust community, making introductions at every opportunity. She was a great connector, always on a mission and wanting nothing in return for her effort than for others to feel seen and know that their work mattered.
“She loved bringing people to the table,” emphasized Randi Weinstein, who knew Linda for years and whose FAB conference counted Linda as an annual sponsor and attendee. “Her mission in life was to help this (F&B) industry and she loved it.”
Hancock, who died unexpectedly last week, was a memorable part of the restaurant and small business communities of Charleston, and it is evident she left a lasting impression on many. The depth and breadth of her community is only just being realized. See, Linda didn’t cook, likely by design, and she patronized the local independent restaurants of Charleston with a degree of enthusiasm uniquely her own. In addition to making all of town her kitchen table, she was regularly the first to write a sponsorship check through her payment processing company, Dezba Solutions, or to purchase a ticket to a special event, making sure to grab a few extra seats for “her people.”
For Linda, no act of support was too small or too grand. She flew cross-country to support a friend’s conference, fought for businesses she believed in and offered shelter from the storm for too many animals and friends to count. It was only recently that Linda became a restaurant operator herself, leading West Ashley’s Patois restaurant through these challenging times. Someone who never ran out of ideas for how to give back to the people and businesses she wanted to see succeed, her friends hope she knew and felt the magnitude of her impact.
Writer and founder of The Southern Fork podcast Stephanie Burt summarizes her poignantly, remarking, “Linda Hancock was the opposite of apathetic. In a world of can’t-be-bothered, I-don’t-call-just-text, Linda lived the opposite. Her guiding belief was in the power of people, and she knew her beliefs and lived it, engaging over and over and always in a world that sometimes looked at her askance for how much she seemed to be everywhere. It wasn’t a ruse; she was an active participant in creating her own life, and if she wanted you a part of it, you knew it.
“I’m sure so many people have stories of her calling them to check up, and she definitely did that to me, considering me one of her people. She always called me ‘lady,’ and always had to share that she didn’t like vegetables, but was trying. I didn’t care about that at all. I was enamored with how she’d support a vegan dinner when she loved steak more than nothing else, how she’d attend a class on amaro wishing there was a glass of wine, support a chef and take a cooking class when she didn’t care to cook. She loved through support, and she blazed a trail of active living, wild stories (of which I’m sure most were true), and being alive with all her senses, an example we badly needed, and still do, of how to boldly live, out in the world with a mischievous glimmer in our eyes.”
Shocked and saddened by their unexpected loss, friends of Hancock gathered over the weekend at Patois where Linda had poured out her heart and soul over recent months. Regardless of what happens, one thing is certain: Her passionate team is eager to carry forward Linda’s vision and legacy. Memorial plans have not yet been announced, but information will be shared as soon as it becomes available.
Carrie Larson is executive director of Pay it Forward Charleston.