Food and family kept bonds of love strong

Diane Hambrick could take the simplest of ingredients and make southern culinary masterpieces.

"She could make something out of almost nothing," said her youngest daughter Carrie Hambrick. "And it was all fresh, there was nothing out of a can."

Mrs. Hambrick’s food, showcased at Diane’s Grill in the 80s and 90s, delighted not only her family, but scores of people in Newnan, Sharpsburg and beyond, according to her eldest daughter Christie Mappin

“A lot of people didn’t even know her last name,” Mrs. Mappin said. “They just knew she was Diane of Diane’s Grill.”

And though she hadn’t done much cooking lately, she would “put in her two cents and let the person in the kitchen know what they were doing wrong,” said Maggie Mappin, her oldest grandchild.

Diane Banks Hambrick, 62, of Newnan, died Friday in her sleep at home, the cause of death is unknown, the family said. Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. today in the chapel of Mowell Funeral Home in Fayetteville. Burial will immediately follow at Camp Memorial Park. Carl J. Mowell and Son, Fayetteville, is in charge of arrangements.

Mrs. Hambrick became known for her cooking long before she opened the grill, her youngest daughter said. She cooked for a United Methodist Church in Newnan and did catering for a number of local groups. In the early 1980s, Mrs. Hambrick sold sausage and biscuit sandwiches out of a storefront in Sharpsburg. Before long, customers asked if she would run a snack stand from the location.

“People just loved her food,” Ms. Hambrick said. “So, opening the restaurant was really the next thing to do.”

An old barbecue restaurant was the first Diane’s Grill location, which was really more like a meat-and-three. Soon Mrs. Hambrick took her namesake eatery to a larger space in Sharpsburg.

“We all worked at there,” said her sister, Nancy Guy, ticking off a list of family members and their duties. And it was more than a labor of love, she said. “We really didn’t mind because the food was so good.”

In 1988 when the made-for-TV-movie Desperate for Love, starring Christian Slater, filmed in the area, Diane's Grill was one of the locations and Mrs. Hambrick provided food for the cast and crew. It was one of many highlights of her cooking career, her daughters said.

Mrs. Hambrick’s grilled, baked and fried delights weren’t limited to her restaurant customers, she loved cooking for her family.

“Some of our fondest memories as a family are going to Diane’s Christmas morning for her big breakfasts,” Mrs. Guy said.

In the mid-90s, Mrs. Hambrick had to close the restaurant. A series of health issues left her unable to enjoy her love of cooking, her daughters said. The unexpected deaths of her husband John S. Hambrick Sr., in 2005, and her only son, John S. "Bubba" Hambrick Jr., last fall, left Mrs. Hambrick sad and withdrawn, Ms. Hambrick said. But recently, the Hambrick matriarch turned a corner. The sparkle was back in her eye, and she’d decided to quit smoking.

Her last day was a good one, her family said. She enjoyed extended phone conversations with her daughters and had a surprise lunch visit from her granddaughter.

“She loved Chinese food, so we ate and laughed and cried,” Ms. Mappin said. “It really was a good day.”

Mrs. Hambrick is also survived by her father, Edgar Banks Jr. of Fayetteville; brother Wayne Banks of Senoia; two sisters, Kay Banks of Fayetteville and Nancy Guy of Newnan; six other grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and a host of nieces, nephews and cousins.