A celebration of Jimmie Mac

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It was an evening to remember, to remember a man whose influence went well beyond that of a simple restaurateur.

One year after he passed away on March 26, 2020, at the age of 63, Jimmie McNeil, Jr., the legendary icon of the Indian Pass Raw Bar, was treated to a celebration of life Friday evening.

In the intervening COVID-19 year, they had moved the stage just beside the raw bar, and the paved ground offered a perfect foundation for enjoying the music of the Currys, and BBQ pork and chicken dinners, washed down with Oyster City Brewing Company beer.

McNeil, who delighted customers when he took to playing the spoons, had grown into a legend the Raw Bar, which had been founded as a commissary store in 1903 for workers in the thriving turpentine industry.

The site became the Indian Pass Trading Post in 1929, offering Gypsy McNeil’s seafood gumbo. After Hurricane Kate destroyed the business in 1986, the McNeil family rebuilt and re-opened it as an oyster bar. After Hurricane Michael, the McNeils did it once again, rebounding from the hurricane’s severe damage.

McNeil’s mother Betty had died a week before he did, and their legendary spot offered a hearty thank you for all they had given Gulf County and surrounding places.

Geoffrey Lentz, pastor of the First UMC Church of Port St. Joe, offered a eulogy, and two of McNeil’s daughters, Meredith and Katie, shared their love for their dad.

The following is a tribute to McNeil, written not long after his passing.

I can hear him playing

his wooden spoons

from Heaven above,

waiting to come back

for a visit

to welcome us,

his friends

and lightly step foot

once again on his turf,

his legendary Indian Pass

Raw Bar front porch

to celebrate his life

his passion, his music

with us, his people.

He’d be smiling, sitting

and playing his spoons

being Jimmie Mac

the one we know and love.

We would welcome his ghost

in our new ghost town.

His Indian Pass Raw Bar

rebuilt bigger and better

after Hurricane Michael

opened in time for Jimmie

to see but now it

entertains no one,

not Jimmie, not me

Covid-19 closed it down.

Jimmie Mac we want

you back home

to celebrate,

keep trying, the sign says

closed until further notice.

 - Debbie Hooper

This article originally appeared on The Star: A celebration of Jimmie Mac

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