If you ever ate anything at Lila Cruikshank’s house, you can rest assured that it was homemade. She would greet you with her contagious smile and a plate of baked goods.
“Everything was made from scratch,” said Cruikshank’s granddaughter, Lila Willingham Shirley of Atlanta. “She met everybody with a smile and a cookie or a piece of banana cake. That was just who she was.”
Her love of baking most likely came from her father, who worked at a bakery until he was 94 and was always baking something, Shirley said. Whenever one of her grandchildren was having a birthday party, she would make them whatever cakes they wanted, anything from pirates and clowns, to teddy bears and dolls.
“It was just a love,” Shirley said. “She would make these hand-carved cakes and would frost them herself. It was a gift she had.”
On Tuesday, Lila Wright Cruikshank, of Buckhead, died of natural causes while sleeping in her home at Lenbrook Square Senior Living Community. She was 98. A private family burial is being held Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Arlington Memorial Park, Sandy Springs. Her memorial service is set to follow at 2 p.m. at St. John United Methodist Church in Atlanta. H.M. Patterson and Son, Arlington Chapel, is in charge of the arrangements.
In 1948, Cruikshank’s love of baking was taken to a whole new level when she and her husband James moved from Southern California to Valdosta to develop and establish Dairy Queen stores throughout the state of Georgia. In 1950, the couple moved to Atlanta, where they worked to open the fast food chains before merging with three owners from other regions to form the International Dairy Queen in Minneapolis.
The couple helped develop 186 of the sweet-treat stores in Georgia, all of which made the list of the top 250 Dairy Queens in volume worldwide. Although she never actually baked anything for the stores, Cruikshank helped support the businesses, said her son, Bob Cruikshank of Atlanta.
“She worked really hard in the Dairy Queen business, and at home with the children and in everything else,” he said. “She was always working.”
According to her family, Cruikshank’s pleasant smile and charitable personality were nearly as sweet as the goods she used to bake. More than anything, she loved making people happy. Before her death, Bob Cruikshank said, not everybody at her senior living home knew her name, but they knew her by her smile.
“People would call her ‘the one that smiles all the time,’” he said. “When I see her in her casket, if she doesn’t have a smile on her face, I may not recognize her.”
In addition to her son and granddaughter, Cruikshank is survived by one sister, Penny Pfeifer of Oceanside, Calif.; nine more grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.
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