NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - Hampton Roads suffers a huge loss this week with the passing of Rowena Fullinwider, the mind behind Rowena's Gourmet Foods in Ghent.
Her baked goods were featured in several major food magazines and on the Food Network, and now Rowena leaves behind an impressive legacy from a life of helping others.
"She was amazing, she was loving, she was compassionate," said Joan Place, who works at Rowena's Kitchen.
Tucked away in the historic Ghent section of Norfolk, Rowena's Gourmet Foods will be celebrating its 30th year in business. But it will do so without its founder.
Rowena passed away Monday after a long battle with cancer. 10 On Your Side profiled Rowena in 2006 as she was fighting Ovarian Cancer – it may have slowed her down, but it didn't stop her. And if you ask anyone who knew her, few things did.
"I will say what so many people are saying right now -- Rowena was an amazing woman, that was a force of nature, a wonderful force of nature," said Place.
She started her company in 1983 after her friends couldn't get enough of her treats.
"A lot of people said this is a great cake, you could sell this cake," said Place. "As Rowena said, ‘nobody told me I couldn't', so she founded a business."
And to this day, Gourmet Foods has thrived selling Rowena's delicious bundt cakes, jellies and curds.
"We ship to Australia, Africa, Canada, I mean we ship to the troops," said Tamikka Doman, who also works at Rowena's Kitchen. "We actually sent palettes of cakes to the troops. I mean it has grown."
Rowena paid her success forward, helping other businesses in Hampton Roads get their start and helping the community. For those who worked alongside her, she was more than a boss.
"When you saw her, she always had a hug and a kiss for you, and encouraging words, ..she could look at you like no one could look at you, I mean even though she wasn't your mother, she would look at you liked you were her child," said Doman.
"She will be greatly missed, she made quite an impact," said Place.
A memorial service for Rowena is scheduled for 11 a.m. this Saturday at Saint Andrews Episcopal Church in Norfolk.
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