DANVERS — Former Ma Duke’s owner Debby Marticio is still hoping to cook as many as 1,500 free meals with all the fixings for those in need this Thanksgiving, despite losing her Maple Street restaurant last December due to health reasons.
Without her restaurant as a base of operations, she and volunteers are planning to serve the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy and cranberry sauce from the American Legion post in Middleton.
“So many people want to help,” said, Marticio, 57, of Danvers. “Fantastic.”
Marticio said at least 25 people have volunteered to cook turkeys, while others have offered to serve or deliver meals at the Augustus P. Gardner American Legion Post 227 at 69 River St.
For six years, Marticio cooked free Thanksgiving meals at Ma Duke’s. She did so last year despite falling behind on her electric bills to the town, which forced the closure of the restaurant for a few weeks in October 2012 when the lights were shut off.
Donations helped her come up with money for a payment plan with the town’s municipal electric division to allow the eatery to reopen and defray the cost of the Thanksgiving meals. She served or delivered 750 free meals. In past years, she has served upward of 1,000 meals, she said.
In December 2012, health reasons forced Marticio to close Ma Duke’s after doctors found and removed a noncancerous 31-pound tumor from her abdomen. The operation put her out of work and forced her to close her establishment. Marticio is now back working at Jimmy’s Famous Roast Beef and Seafood on High Street, where she worked before opening her own place.
When she closed Ma Duke’s, her big regret was “not being able to do Thanksgiving anymore,” she said.
Marticio said she had been searching for the right place to cook the meals, but few were a good fit. Some venues were already serving meals.