Restaurant owner dies hours after Obama stops in for breakfast

President Barack Obama has breakfast at Ann's Place in Akron, Ohio. July 6, 2012

President Barack Obama has breakfast at Ann’s Place in Akron, Ohio. July 6, 2012

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AKRON, Ohio — A woman died Friday morning just hours after President Barack Obama had breakfast at her restaurant.

Fox 8 News in Cleveland reports Josephine “Ann” Harris, 70, was rushed to Akron General Medical Center at around 11 a.m., where she died a short time later, the Summit County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed.

Officials did not immediately release a cause of death, although family members said they believed Harris had died of a heart attack. In fact, she had been recovering from a recent heart attack, but did not want to miss a chance to meet the president, loved ones said.

It was a tragic end to a day that started out so well for Harris when President Obama entered her South Hawkins Avenue restaurant, Ann’s Place, at around 8:30 a.m. and started to joke with her customers.

Obama reportedly ordered eggs, bacon and toast, and shook hands with restaurant patrons before sitting down to talk with three Goodyear workers about steps he had taken to protect American workers from unfair trade practices.

The visit came on the second day of his “Betting on America” bus tour. Obama later traveled to Boardman and Poland, Ohio, before heading to Pennsylvania.

The White House on Friday released the following statement on the passing of Ann Harris:

“We are extremely saddened by Ann’s sudden passing today. Our sincere condolences go to Ann’s family during this difficult time. As a small business owner, a mother, a sister, a grandmother, a great grandmother and friend of many throughout the community, Ann led an exceptional life and will be missed by all who knew her. Ann and her family are in our thoughts and prayers.”

Late Friday afternoon, the family received a personal phone call from Obama.

Neighbor and friend, Barb Peck, recorded the conversation for the family on her cellphone.

“(Ann) was such a big fan of the president and everything he stood for,” said Peck.

“Michelle and I are thinking of you and your daughters and the entire family,” Obama said on the recording.

One of Ann’s daughters told the president that his visit brought a smile to their mother’s face.

After a few minutes, the conversation ended with Mr. Obama saying, “God bless you guys.” As the teary-eyed family huddled around the phone, they all responded saying, “Thank you President Obama. We love you.”

Family members say they appreciate the phone call and all of the condolences they’ve received, although it will take time to process all of the day’s events.

Barb Peck says, “She was meant to be here, and her restaurant be used for President Obama, and then Good Lord took her right away.”

Funeral arrangements for Harris are pending. She leaves behind five children, 11 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.


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