JUNO BEACH — On what would have been her 37th birthday Saturday, Jackie Barthelemy’s friends, family and former colleagues gathered at one of her favorite spots to remember the accomplished chef and devoted mother of two.
Four weeks after she was killed during a robbery at a Palm Beach Gardens convenience store, Barthelemy’s longtime partner, Michael Cimbrec, hosted a daylong, public memorial event outside Loggerhead Marinelife Center.
The ocean conservation facility and the beach behind it were special to Barthelemy, Cimbrec said. The Palm Beach Gardens resident spent many afternoons there with Cimbrec and their children Alexis, 17, and Trenten, who turned 14 Saturday.
“Jackie and I lived for the beach,” Cimbrec said. “When we weren’t working and she wasn’t being a baseball mom, we were at the beach. Holding this event outside was a no-brainer.”
Cimbrec, who also is a chef, said the novel coronavirus pandemic played no role in his decision to host an outdoor memorial event.
Those who wanted to wear masks were encouraged to do so, Cimbrec said, while many others opted to remain mask-free.
“For the most part, we’re family,” he said. “Some people are wearing masks who are concerned about it, and then other people have different views on it. It’s a personal preference.”
Saturday’s memorial, which drew about 50 people, followed a smaller one held last week in Barthelemy’s native Ohio.
Barthelemy’s parents, sister and brother were among those who attended the event, which included a barbecue at Loggerhead Park followed by a smaller gathering at the beach across the street.
Cimbrec said he wanted to give guests the opportunity to remember Barthelemy, an avid Ohio State Buckeyes fan who moved to Florida to attend college, and never left.
“I wanted friends and family to come to the beach, have a drink with us, put their toes in the sand, sing some songs, listen to some music and tell a story,” said Cimbrec, who brought to the park a memory board decorated with mementos and photos of Barthelemy. “It’s just a chance for everybody to come and hug and have a cry.”
Many of Barthelemy’s current and former colleagues were among those who paid tribute to her at Saturday’s memorial, including Sarah Figueroa, a West Palm Beach pastry chef who was one of her closest friends.
Figueroa worked with Barthelemy for six years at Eastpointe Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens and Myacoo Lakes Country Club in West Palm Beach, where Barthelemy was the executive chef at the time of her death.
“She was very loving and giving, and always wanted everyone to be happy,” Figueroa said. “She was the most beautiful person. She and I talked at least twice a week on the phone, always catching up.”
Barthelemy loved a good party, said her sister, Becki Nelson, and would have enjoyed Saturday’s gathering.
Cimbrec brought in a guitarist to play for the crowd, and there was plenty of food and drink for the guests.
“She was a genuine good person,” Nelson said of Barthelemy. “She walked in a room, and her smile was amazing.”
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Palm Beach Gardens chef killed in robbery remembered at beach memorial