On Christmas morning, Café la Bohème owner Awad Faddoul called his chef, Glenna Randolph, as he does every year. He thanked her for her gifts to him and his family, and she gently scolded him for giving her a box of chocolates, saying it would take her a whole year to eat them.
“That’s okay, I’ll give you another one next year,” Faddoul remembered telling Randolph. Then, he said, she told him she loved him, as always.
Randolph, 60, died early on the morning of December 26, apparently of a heart attack. The exact circumstances of her death are unclear, but Faddoul and his wife Jackie are now mourning the loss of a co-worker they considered family.
“She never felt that [the café] was work. It was her living room,” Faddoul said. “She did what she wanted the way she thought it’s the right way, and we respected that.”
Well-read, meticulous and assertive, Randolph had a reputation for doing things in her own manner.
“Even if I told her, she’d still do it her own way,” Faddoul said.
Jackie Faddoul said her son, who also worked at the café, jokingly “fired” Randolph so many times that Randolph eventually gifted him a keychain adorned with the words “You’re fired,” so he wouldn’t have to say it so often.
“We were the owners, but she basically told us what to do,” Jackie Faddoul remembered.
Nonetheless, Randolph was an integral part of the beloved 24th Street café. Her work there began in the late 1970s, when her brother, Michael Randolph, co-founded the locale with a business partner. Michael Randolph could not be reached for comment.
When the Faddoul family took over the café in 1995, Randolph continued her work there. She would work early and late hours as necessary, and Jackie Faddoul said she often had to persuade her to leave if the end of her shift coincided with a particularly long line of customers or a large load of dishes.
“So many people, she knew their name and knew what they wanted,” Awad Faddoul said. “She was one of the best, if not the best.”
“In a culture that values self promotion, getting ahead, and moving on up, Glenna taught us all what it means to be steadfast,” wrote local playwright Elizabeth Gjelten on Facebook. “She made me my first good cappuccinos in San Francisco in my first lost days here in 1983. She was the thread that held this community, without most folks even seeing her.”
“Muni drivers were the only people she ever let cut the line. ‘Gotta keep the City moving’. May her memory be a blessing,” a former co-worker wrote on Facebook.
When she wasn’t making cappuccinos or cooking her customers meals at La Bohème, the Faddouls said, Randolph could be found strolling around the neighborhood or readings books and magazines.
“If we had any kind of problem [at the café], she would get a book about it,” Jackie Faddoul said.
“She was very knowledgeable,” Awad Faddoul said.
Randolph was also fastidiously tidy.
“According to her landlady, her apartment was like a museum,” Jackie Faddoul said.
Though she had no children of her own, Randolph was a sort of surrogate grandmother to the Faddoul children.
“They knew her more than their own grandmothers,” Jackie Faddoul said.
“She practically raised my kids. She was like a sister to my wife and to me. She was like a sister and mother to a lot of customers,” Awad Faddoul said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do without her.”