Elaine Thrasher wanted to be a positive force in the northwest Atlanta community where she worked. Though she'd traveled the world, she never lost touch with folks from home.
"She wanted people to know there was more to life than just the hustle," said her niece, Mia Thomas. "She was trying to help motivate her workers and people who came in."
Vanessa Elaine Thrasher, called Elaine or Laine by most, was the owner of O.T.'S Soul Food and Lounge on Joseph E. Boone Boulevard. She inherited the business from her father when he died in 2010. Since she took over, the lounge, which opened in the early '70s, she'd tried to turn it into more than a place to grab a quick bite to eat.
"She was making it a kind of community place," Ms. Thomas said. "She'd put in a place where people could use a computer and the Internet, if they needed to. She partnered with area churches to help students with scholarships and things like that. She loved that place."
Bonita Goode, a sister in Lithia Springs, said the family often worried about Ms. Thrasher's safety in the changing neighborhood.
"We'd tell her to come out from over there, that it wasn't safe," her sister said. "But she put her heart and soul into that place. And she preached to the kids all of the time. She'd tell them they needed to get themselves together because she wouldn't always be there."
It was at the lounge that Ms. Thrasher, of Lithia Springs, was gunned down in a suspected robbery on Aug. 16, police say. She was 53. A funeral was held Saturday at Jackson Memorial Baptist Church. Arrangements were handled by Murray Brothers Cascade Chapel.
Otis Thrasher, who died in 2010, wanted the business he started to stay in the family, and of his nine children, Ms. Thrasher was the natural choice, Ms. Thomas said. Ms. Thrasher, who grew up in Atlanta's Ezra Heights neighborhood, was studying to be a chemical engineer, a dream she never gave up. Even after leaving Georgia State University to help her father, she went back to Kennesaw State University a couple of years ago to continue taking classes.
"The business took so much of her time, but she was going to finish," Ms. Thomas said. "And she used herself as an example to the kids who came around. She'd tell them there was more to life than these streets."
Since Ms. Thrasher's death, the family has decided to close the lounge for good. But they hope people will always remember Ms. Thrasher for all she tried to do for the community.
"She was an angel to so many people, and she was very special to so many people," her sister said. "And especially to her family, she will be missed."
Ms. Thrasher is also survived by three additional sisters, Meta Pearline Fisher of Atlanta, Beverly Patrice Thrasher of Israel and Tina Yvette Thrasher of Atlanta; and two brothers, Michael Vincent Thrasher of Atlanta and Donald Alan Thrasher of Marietta.