MaryAnne Heath has retired.
The longer I sit behind this desk, the harder it seems to be to write column leads such as this one.
Learning of Heath’s retirement, I’m guessing came to me like it did for most – surprised, yet happy for her. A woman who has given so much to this community for so long deserves a fulfilling retirement. They also (in my opinion) deserve a proper send off.
Yet, the 2010 Oakdale Chamber Lifetime Achievement recipient has opted to go off quietly. No large pomp and circumstance, no big splashy news story on what’s next. No; Heath has simply retired and turned the keys over to a new owner.
That story will be next to come, but today, well, today is about celebrating Heath and the memories she has forever blessed myself, my children and this community with.
I still remember one of my first visits to the bakery in early 2002. A recent Southern California transplant discovering a place like Moss Rose felt like a special little treasure. Simplicity meets scrumptiousness would be the way I would best describe it. As long as I had a little cash or my checkbook on hand I could count on grabbing a few treats for whatever was in store.
Discovery of the frosted cookie would prove to be an all-time favorite, closely followed by the donut holes, bear claws and chef salad. Oh and the three bean salad and French bread should also be on this list, hey ... who are we kidding; the list goes on.
While Moss Rose Bakery was not the friendliest stop for those looking to shed a few pounds, it was the place to pop in if you were looking to cure a sweet tooth or put a smile on the face of a loved one.
In time, I became a mom who replied on the skills of Heath’s baking team and one of a kind sugar cookie recipe to fulfill school parties for my children when they began pre-school. The cookies were also party favors at a number of family birthday parties, always a hit and never left over.
Heath and I also shared a special affection for Tibetan Terriers, often sharing stories of our trusted companions and how special they were in our lives.
What I always loved about stopping in the bakery were those stolen moments of conversation with MaryAnne. As the small town journalist, I knew her days were plenty long and her time valuable, yet she always made time to stop and share a story or a smile or two before a valued customer left the bakery.
My children are fortunate; they also shared very fond memories of the bakery, as well as its owner. While their list of memories is long, there’s one particular memory which I think truly sums up the heart of Heath and what made the space so special.
When my children were younger they attended Magnolia Elementary School. Looking for creative ways to give them a bit of independence which was both safe and manageable in third and fifth grade we tried something new. Every so often, on the days it would be hard for me to break from the office to pick them up, they would walk to the bakery and I would walk from the office to meet them.
In truth, it was a win/win. They would be equipped with a few dollars to get an after school treat and mom would not have to burn an hour of work time fighting the midday traffic. There were no scheduled days we would do this. More times than not it would be me realizing my day was full as I dropped them off and directing them to meet me at the bakery after school.
One Wednesday as I made my way up North Third, I arrived to see no kids, no outside tables, no nothing. Suddenly it hit me – Wednesday! For all those in the know the bakery was always closed on Wednesday. Just seconds away from a panic, I spied my two blonde babes and one smiling Heath approaching the bakery door.
As it turned out, my duo had opted to sit on the brick benches when they arrived and realized the bakery was closed. Only shortly after to be discovered by Heath who was there working and ushered them in to find some cookies in the freezer to take home.
My kids still talk about that story, as well as the surprise of donuts and donut holes before school when we were running early for a change, or mom picking some up after early morning yoga.
It was just a special gem of a place, made that way by the owner. Oh granted we are fortunate that amidst all the closures and retirements brought on by COVID, Moss Rose still remains, but there is only one Heath and personally I’m grateful to know that.
So, as a new chapter begins for Heath, as well as us as a community it seems only fitting to publicly say, thank you my friend. These paragraphs don’t even begin to touch on all which you have done for this community, outside of your brick and mortar bakery. Your kind heart, giving spirit and sweet smile will be missed by many. Here’s to a new chapter which brings you many memories and perhaps a little relaxation. You will indeed be missed and always appreciated.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at email@example.com or by calling 209-847-3021.