NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Longtime Philly Steaks manager Martha Kaiser has been a familiar face to many in Norfolk.

For 40 years, she was the light and glue of the store. That’s why her sudden death on May 2 hit people that much harder.

Martha worked at Philly Steaks since she was 16 and fell in love with the store, customers, employees and her husband Scott.

“I got a job here and probably about 10 years after I left, we actually got together and got married,” he said.

He said his wife suffered from a heart attack in the store and died almost instantly.

He was across the country in San Diego when his daughter called him to give him news he never thought he would hear so soon.

“It didn’t hit me really until I was on the plane,” Scott Kaiser said. “I got a plane ticket like 10 minutes after I got off the phone with my daughter.”

Philly Steaks owner Debbie Hatch told me Martha was a real hit with customers, remembering each person’s name and sometimes even their regular order.

She laughed as she remembered her upbeat personality and jokes.

“Somebody that had a short name like that spelling it for her and she would just be, ‘I know how to spell Anne,'” she said, “It was kind of a running joke we had when someone would spell a name for her, she obviously knew how to spell.”

She said she’s still struggling to cope with such a loss because Martha was so much more than a friend to her.

“Honestly, she was my best friend by the time she was done here,” Hatch said. “I just enjoyed coming to work every day knowing that I’d be alongside her on the counter listening to her jokes. She’ll be missed.”

Remembering Martha brought out many emotions from her loved ones: tears, laughter, but mostly love.

“[If I saw her again], I’d give her a big hug and tell her I love you and I’ll see you tomorrow,” Debbie said.

Said her husband: “I’d tell her how much I love her and I’d probably say what are we doing today.”

Want to help?

There’s a GoFundMe Fundraiser by Genny Kaiser : the family of martha kaiser ( available for Martha’s daughter Genny to cover hospital bills, pay back funeral costs and more. Anyone can donate.