DANVERS — Debby Marticio was forced to close Ma Duke’s eatery in December due to health reasons, she said, after she was diagnosed with what she described as a noncancerous 31-pound tumor in her abdomen.
She said yesterday that doctors have cleared her medically to go back to work, but Ma Duke’s Pizza, Roast Beef and Seafood Restaurant will be no more. The restaurant derived its name from Marticio’s nickname: Ma Duke.
“Last year was the worst year ever,” said Marticio, 57. “I’m hoping things get better.”
For the past six years, the Danvers resident opened the restaurant’s doors to provide free Thanksgiving meals to anyone who needed it. Toward the end of October, Marticio fell behind on her electric bill to the town, which has a municipal electric division.
Donations to that debt allowed her to reopen and work out a payment plan with the town, she said at the time. More donations, including from a spaghetti supper fundraiser held by All Saints Episcopal Church, defrayed the cost of the 750 free meals she either served on Thanksgiving at the former Maple Street restaurant or had delivered to those in need.
She wound up in the hospital and had surgery on Dec. 17, she said. After that, she could not lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk, keeping her from going back to work.
Marticio said she noticed something was wrong when she began to lose weight, but her waist did not show this loss. Surgeons were able to remove the tumor, and Marticio said she was fortunate it was not cancerous.
“Needless to say,” Marticio said yesterday, “I had to close.” While her husband and daughter worked at the restaurant, her husband has a full-time job and her daughter could not manage it all by herself, Marticio said. She now has about $50,000 in medical bills, plus bills accumulated from the now-closed restaurant.