TUTTLE — It's been more than five years since L.G. and JoAnn Wakefield served up their final platters of chicken-fried steak at L.G.'s Cafe on Tuttle's Main Street, but the townspeople have not forgotten the couple.
In fact, word spread so quickly after L.G. Wakefield was in a March tractor accident, that a crowd had gathered by the time the ambulance arrived. The tractor had overturned as he and his son-in-law worked to remove a tree from their acreage on N First Street.
Pinned briefly beneath a wheel, Wakefield, 72, managed to walk to the ambulance. He complained of lightheadedness and was taken to the hospital, but his only severe injury was a tear in his left shoulder.
Doctors took another look at the shoulder last week, and the news was not so good.
“They told me if I don't get it fixed I could lose the use of my arm,” he said.
Strong work ethic
L.G. Wakefield has need of strong arms, as he and his wife have maintained a steady pace since leaving the cafe behind after 30 years in business. Most of their days stretch from 6 a.m. to midnight, he said.
“We stay busy every day. I'm not going to sit in that chair.”
He works 15 hours a week doing maintenance for the Tuttle Housing Authority, mows lawns around town and “tinkers” in his shed.
JoAnn Wakefield, 67, has a housecleaning business, works in their yard and garden, helps take care of their three great-grandchildren and makes sure their residence sports the latest in home decor.
When they sold their cafe in 2006, they thought a leisurely retirement was in their future.
“My sister-in-law was in real estate,” L.G. Wakefield said. “She said she thought she could sell the place, and she did.”
If he had it to do over, “I believe I would have taken a day off here and there and kept the cafe open. We lasted 30 days, and I had to go back to work.”
JoAnn Wakefield said they worked side by side at the cafe, serving at least three generations of Tuttle residents.
“We had two waitresses and a dishwasher,” she said. “Ninety-nine percent of the help was family or close friends.
“We served a ton of farmers, all the business people in Tuttle, travelers and schoolkids.”
His wife did the “stove cooking,” L.G. Wakefield said, and he did the frying. The Minco native brags that his wife, whom he married right after she graduated from Tuttle High School, served “the best skillet gravy you ever tasted.” She kept her cast iron gravy skillet when the restaurant was sold.
Their daughters, Sherri Huffman, of Tuttle, and Anissa Fowler, now of Oklahoma City, worked in the restaurant.
Huffman said her parents were strict, but she credits them with teaching their daughters values and respect.
“They did the best they could by us,” she said. “We had good teachers.”
Much to be proud of
She said her parents have taken only one real vacation — to Fairfield Bay, Ark., in 1975 — but once had a camper and spent many weekends at Oklahoma lakes. They don't like to fly or travel far by automobile, she said.
L.G. Wakefield recently rebuilt a bush hog, which he took to his pasture to tackle a waist-high stand of Johnson grass.
“Cut right through it,” he said with pride.
He also works on racing lawn mowers and tractors used in tractor-pull competitions, has two pet donkeys, Bella and Barney, raises chickens and tends the family garden that will soon produce corn, potatoes, onions, green beans, cantaloupe, squash and the tomatoes that will form the base for his special salsa.
Huffman said her father “never met a stranger. He will talk to anyone about anything.”
And her mother “does not slow down,” she said.
L.G. Wakefield has some advice for anyone thinking about retiring.
“Keep working,” he said. “Do not retire — unless you have a pocket full of money.”
JoAnn Wakefield did not lose any of her skills after they sold the restaurant, her husband said.
“She still makes the best skillet gravy you ever tasted.”