Bonnie Hooper Free, founder of Lufkin's Mom's diner, dies after cancer battle

Bonnie Hooper Free, founder of Lufkin's Mom's diner, dies after cancer battle
Source: Free family
Source: Free family

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Bonnie Hooper Free, aka "Mom," died at the age of 78 Saturday after a long battle with cancer. Free started Mom's Diner, which has been a Lufkin an Angelina County institution for 30 years.

According to Free's daughter, Terry Free Gardiner, her mother died after a fight with cancer. She was diagnosed in 2007, but she beat it. It came back recently, and she promised to fight it again.

Mom's Diner was originally located on State Highway 103 East near the paper mill. It remained there until 1995, when a log truck ran through the front of the building. Free was seriously injured as a result of the crash.

Two months later in 1995, the diner re-opened on Frank Avenue in Lufkin. The restaurant moved several blocks further into town on Frank Avenue to its current location in 2014.

"We hopefully will be opened up by Monday, but it could change," Terry said. "We want our customers who love us to be able to eat, and we want our employees to be able to work and make a living."

The diner announced last week on social media that it would be closed indefinitely, so the family could be with Free in her last days.

Free was born on Aug. 1, 1938 in San Augustine County.

Funeral services for Free will be held Thursday at 10 a.m. at the Greater Love Tabernacle Church in Homer with Pastor Ronnie Frankens officiating. Interment will follow at Old Sardis Cemetery in San Augustine County.

Visitation will be at the Shafer Funeral Home in Lufkin from 5 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday.

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