Hilliard, Karen

HILLIARD

(MONTGOMERY), Karen

Karen Montgomery Hilliard, age 84, passed away peacefully in her home on Monday, January 9, 2023 in Rome, GA, from a year-long battle with cancer.

She was born on December 28, 1938, in Atlanta, Georgia, to Ruth Dunaway Montgomery Wansley and John Rueben Montgomery. She was married to John Daniel Ehrlichman, Aide and Counsel to former President Richard Nixon, who preceded her in death in 1999.

Karen enjoyed a successful career in the culinary industry as a caterer, a restaurateur, a television personality and an author. In the 1970s, her love of good food led her to open Party Potpourri, a catering company located in the west Texas town of Odessa. She furthered her culinary skills by studying French cooking at the famed La Varenne Ecole De Cuisine in Paris, France.

Over time she learned she wanted people to come to her place to enjoy her food instead of bringing it to the people. In the 1980s she opened two restaurants, Peach's 8th Street Cafe in Odessa and Karen's Restaurant in nearby Midland. She appeared on local television on a weekly basis hosting her own cooking show.

In 1989, along with her son Billy Kennedy, she moved to Atlanta, Georgia, and opened Georgia Grille, a cozy bistro-style restaurant in the Buckhead area of town which featured flavors from Texas and New Mexico. A few years later, she opened Toulouse, a french-mediterranean themed restaurant, located across the street from Georgia Grille.

Georgia Grille became wildly popular, frequented by customers from all over the country. She poured her heart and soul into the restaurant for thirty years until she retired in 2020. While enjoying the success of Georgia Grille and Toulouse, she authored a cookbook which featured recipes from the Georgia Grille called, "Teaching Billy to Cook, Life at Georgia Grille".

In 2022, she relocated to Rome, Georgia, to be close to her daughter and their family and resided at The Spires at Berry College.

Karen is survived by her two children, William B. (Billy) Kennedy (Robin Kennedy) of Fort Worth, TX, and Jennifer K. Talley (Jim Talley) of Rome, GA; and her grandsons, Samuel K. Talley (Rome, GA) and Jackson E. Talley (Rome, GA). Survivors also include her two sisters, Kim Simmons of Kosciusko, MS, and Katie Dempsey (Lynn Dempsey) of Rome, GA.

Karen was a dedicated member and volunteer of Buckhead Church in Atlanta, GA and blessed by the ladies in her small group. She adored her neighbors from Peachtree Hills neighborhood while living in Atlanta. She loved her tireless employees and the many patrons of Georgia Grille, who quickly turned into lifelong friends…let's all hope for Lobster Enchiladas and margaritas one day in Heaven! She was grateful for her new community at The Spires at Berry College, and she loved her devoted caregiver, Laura Dickert (Interim Healthcare), who cared for and loved her every day during her last stages of her illness. She will always be grateful to the culinary community of Atlanta, GA for their support and collaboration over the years.

A private interment will be held in Conyers, Georgia.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in her memory to: *Ken Boa Reflections Ministries at https://kenboa.org/donate/

*Honey Creek Woodlands, 2625 Highway 212 SW, Conyers, GA 30094-4044

*The Community Kitchen of Rome & Floyd County.