Something's missing from downtown

OLYMPIA - McMenamins Spar Cafe isn't the same these days without the steady stream of witty and boisterous wisecracks from iconic Spar waitress Genia Sutter.

A fixture at the Spar for more than 30 years, Sutter has been missing in action since July 31 when she started experiencing symptoms from a stroke while working her customary Saturday morning breakfast shift at the downtown Olympia eatery.

“I was slurring my S’s and my hands wouldn’t write,” Sutter said Monday from her self-described “11th floor penthouse” at Providence St. Peter Hospital. “I knew something was wrong.”

Her first inclination was to tough it out and then go to the hospital after her shift ended.

“I’ve never called in sick or asked for time off,” the dedicated restaurant worker said.

Fortunately, co-workers prevailed and she was rushed to the hospital emergency room. She was hospitalized, treated and finally discharged on Friday, Aug. 13.

One week later, she was back in the hospital after blacking out and suffering seizures in an apparent reaction to her medication.

From her hospital bed Monday, she said her doctor is adjusting her medication and she may be headed home after a few days of additional care in the hospital stroke rehabilitation center.

“There’s a big hole in downtown Olympia without Genia,” Spar manager Jon-Paul Sletten as the lunch crowd started filtering into the historic restaurant Monday.

From 7 a.m.-noon, Aug. 30, the Spar will host a benefit for Sutter to raise money to help pay her medical bills.

She has medical insurance provided by her employer, but will still face to sizeable, out-of-pocket medical costs in the weeks and months ahead.

Eat breakfast next Monday at the Spar and McMenamins will donate 50 percent of the proceeds to help Sutter cover her medical expenses.

There will also be a book for patrons to sign and write stories to and about Sutter, whose customer interactions span the decades and number in the tens of thousands. There will also be a donation jar for additional contributions.

Former Olympia mayor Mark Foutch will be at the Spar for breakfast next Monday. He’s one of Sutter’s biggest fans.

“She’s a big-hearted, hardworking woman with an open, engaging personality,” Foutch said. “She’s the exact opposite of stuffy.”

John Dodge: 360-754-5444 jdodge@theolympian.com