Friends, family remember Kannapolis caterer Gary Sweatt
KANNAPOLIS — Friends say Gary Sweatt — owner, with wife Alma Goetzinger of Plain Or Fancy Catering in Kannapolis — always put others ahead of himself.
Even after losing a leg last March due to an aneurism, Sweatt had fought hard to get back to work.
And he continued to use his time and talents in service to the community.
Sweatt, 64, died Thursday at Carolinas Medical Center NorthEast, of complications following pneumonia.
Since last June, when the Post interviewed Sweatt about his recovery, he had returned to work regularly at the catering business he had run for almost 21 years.
Among other things, his company catered popular Sunday buffet lunches at Rotary Hall on West Avenue.
Proceeds went to help renovate the hall, where both club meetings and community events are held.
Kannapolis Rotary Club President Deborah Carter said she had known of Sweatt through his business, “but I never personally knew him until he joined Rotary.”
“He was an observer, a quiet person who sat back and observed,” Carter said.
But, she said, “He was always on the go.”
And, Carter added, took pride in making sure his customers ate well and were happy.
As soon he could return following last year’s surgery, Carter said, “he was right in the midst of us, and carried on as if nothing had happened. He was a trouper.”
Family friend Tom Kincaid, owner of Caremoor Retirement Center & Assisted Living and past president of Kannapolis Rotary Club, said Sweatt was one of the most selfless people he had known.
“He was always about someone else,” Kincaid said. “He never thought about himself.”
Kincaid recalled a time just after Sweatt’s first round of surgeries last year.
Despite the fact he was in the hospital, Kincaid said, Sweatt was talking about how he could get involved in a fundraiser for the Kannapolis Education Foundation.
“Even laying there in the ICU, he was always thinking about others, not himself,” Kincaid said.
“He’ll be sorely missed,” said Dr. Eric Atkinson, president of Downtown Kannapolis, Inc. “He always had the greater good of the community at heart.”
In addition to his fundraising work, Atkinson said, Sweatt had promoted the lunches at Rotary Hall as a way to build interest and bring locals back downtown.
“He always had hope and spirit. He wanted to give back to the community,” Atkinson said.
A Cabarrus County native, Sweatt opened Plain or Fancy Catering in 1992.
He started out working on the grounds of the former Fieldcrest Cannon plant downtown, serving lunch to employees there.
Stepdaughter Jessica Haynes said Plain or Fancy Catering employees “are devastated” by the sudden loss, and had rallied around to support Alma and family.
She said Sweatt had always been there for her and her brother, Jason. “He’s been a part of our lives for 19 years,” Haynes said.
She said they would miss his laughter the most.
“He pretty much always had a smile on his face,” Haynes said. “Loved music, loved playing with his grandchildren.”
The family will celebrate Sweatt’s life at an informal gathering of friends Sunday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Whitley’s Funeral Home annex chapel, 1748 Dale Earnhardt Blvd, Kannapolis.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.